Yesterday, I had the distinct pleasure of attending Nightwish’s performance at the Showbox in Seattle. For those of you who haven’t listened to my show, Something Different, from 8-10 PM on Tuesdays, shameless plug intended, I’m a huge fan of their rich, orchestral sound and songwriting style. Nightwish is a Symphonic Metal group out of Finland, with recent additions from Holland and the U.K. Their music is something I’d recommend for epic everyday activities such as, say, slaying a particularly vicious dragon or folding two weeks’ worth of laundry, both things we all do on a regular basis.
I can’t properly express how mind-blowing a concert this was without tipping my proverbial hat to the warm-up acts Delain, out of Holland, and Sonata Arctica, also from Finland. Delain had a very polished, if rather simple sound going for them. Their string players both had long, blonde hair, as Dutch people often do, and had obviously practiced headbanging in sync. Their lead vocals, provided by the magnificent Charlotte Wessels, were definitely their standout strength. She’s a strong, lyrical vocalist, with the stage presence to back it up, not to mention the fact that Nightwish’s male vocalist, Marco Hiatala, joined her onstage for two numbers. Overall, I’d recommend Delain to those just getting into the Symphonic Metal scene, as they’re very approachable, while still retaining that epic sound one attends these kinds of events for. Sonata Arctica was a different beast entirely, preferring a sound with a bit more edge and depth to it over Delain’s polish. Led by vocalist Tony Kakko’s rather dramatic stage histrionics and almost glam-rock vocals (definitely not a bad thing), they lean more towards power metal, while sticking with the same general theme of sweeping, epic sound. One thing that really stuck in my mind is their bassist, who spent the entire concert grinning evilly at the audience in a very well-practiced manner, occasionally stopping to wave his long brown hair around. It isn’t often that a band’s bassist will be front and center, but this stage was shared almost equally between all the band members, with a little extra room for Tony, of course. With our eardrums thus warmed up, the lights died, and the band we all came to see, Nightwish, took the stage.
Let me preface this by saying that I am incredibly biased. I’ve listened to and loved Nightwish for years, and I’d been looking forward to this concert for the better part of six months. That all said, it amazes me how well this group works together. Their lead vocalist, Floor Jansen, has only been with the band three and a half years ever since getting flown in in a panic when their previous vocalist quit in the middle of a tour. Floor was given two days to memorize the 90-minute set, and since that trial by fire, she’s worked fantastically with the rest of the band. They opened with Shudder Before the Beautiful, the first track off of their latest album, Endless Forms Most Beautiful, which they were touring with. For the first three tracks, it seemed they were just going down the list of tracks on that album, which would’ve made a decent concert in and of itself, but then they started diverging, throwing in fan favorited from their other albums, such as Storytime, off of 2011’s Imaginaerum, Stargazers, from 1998’s Oceanborn, and, my personal favorite, Ghost Love Score, from 2004’s Once. In between these oldies but goodies, they’d play some of the best tracks from their latest album, like Elan and My Walden, bringing bagpipes and mandolins and various flutes onto the stage to add their signature folky touch to an otherwise rocking set. At one point, their bassist, Marco Hietala, was playing a double-necked Guitar-Bass combo. The only member of the band who didn’t really have any stage presence was, oddly enough, their songwriter and pianist, Tuomas Holopainen. He mostly stayed by his keyboard, which he was giving what appeared to be a very sensual backrub. He gave off the air of a mad scientist witnessing the might of his creating, which I guess is more or less exactly what he was.
The show ended with The Greatest Show on Earth, the epic 24-minute odyssey of a song that also wraps up Endless Forms Most Beautiful here whittled down to 13 minutes or so for live playability’s sake. The track features prerecorded dialogue by Richard Dawkins, and concerns the rise and fall of humanity, and life on earth in general as viewed from evolutionary perspective. While a strange theme for a Metal album to adopt, it nevertheless worked quite well, and the band exited the stage to the sounds of whale calls played off someone’s computer. The only real downside I can think of concerning the concert was that quite a lot of the instrumental backing present on the CD was here replicated via a prerecorded track. It’s understandable, as the Showbox would not be big enough for the choir and symphonic orchestra a true live rendition of the album would require, but it still felt a little hokey at times. A small drop in a big bucket though, as the band still managed to showcase how ridiculously talented they are as artists. If you happen to be into this kind of music, I would definitely recommend seeing them next time they come through town, as a musical feast for the eyes and ears is absolutely guaranteed.
Featured image credit: Google, labeled for reuse