LIVE: Nightwish @ The Egg, 3/18/18

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Review by Mark Alexander Hudson

It’s an awfully long way from the tiny municipality of Kitee, Finland to Greater Nippertown. Yet here we are on a chilly Sunday night at The Egg’s Hart Theatre, ready to delve into the dark and mysterious world of symphonic metal, courtesy of one of the genre’s foremost practitioners – Nightwish.

Nightwish were formed in 1996 by keyboardist and primary composer Tuomas Holopainen and guitarist Emppu Vuorinen. They have just commenced their American tour, titled Decades, named after their newest release, a 2-CD career retrospective. In a nice touch, each ticket holder on the tour is presented with a free copy of this collection upon entering the venue.

In their 22-year existence the band has gone through three different lead vocalists. The dramatic circumstances relating to the departure of the previous two lend themselves more to the realm of soap opera than Finnish
saga, but the band now seems happy and settled with current frontwoman Floor Jansen. As well they should be.

Jansen is tall and striking, a raven-haired Valkyrie with a most impressive range. But she is no gothic ice maiden. Her onstage persona is friendly and approachable, smiling and waving to the crowd, encouraging them to clap and sing along, but not averse to a bit of headbanging and goofy air keyboard playing during the lengthy instrumental passages.

Her vocals are complimented by bass player Marco Hietala, who thankfully just stays on the right line of abrasive ferocity without descending into the clichéd cookie monster roar favored by many metal bands.

The group is rounded out by drummer Kai Hahto and Uillean piper/second guitarist Troy Donockley, the sole Englishman in the line-up. Donockley’s pipes give another folkloric flavor to Nightwish’s sound, his mournful solo opening to the show somewhat reminiscent of Bill Whelan’s music for “Riverdance.”

And what kind of music is symphonic metal? Well, in Nightwish’s case I think it is best described as cinematic. It came as no surprise to me to find that Holopainen’s main influence and favorite type of music to listen to
is soundtracks. At times the almighty sonic thunder emanating from the stage sounded like the music from a “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie on steroids.

The 24-minute epic “The Greatest Show on Earth,” based on the writings of Darwin and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (yeah, this ain’t “Party in the USA”) was a stunning highlight, showcasing Nightwish’s ambitious scope.

Cinematic, too, in presentation. Who ever is the band’s artistic director deserves major congratulations for the back screen projections used throughout the show. Simply put, in all my years of gig-going, I have never seen this aspect of a live performance executed so well and so creatively. The images ranged from animation to live footage, sometimes moving, sometimes static, all perfectly synchronized to the band’s playing, timed impeccably to enhance the experience.

I must admit to some misgivings prior to this gig. Wasn’t symphonic metal all a bit ridiculous? All Game of Thrones, overblown & bombastic? Well, yes, I suppose it can be these things. But in the hands of a band like
Nightwish, it can also be tremendously exciting, stirring and triumphant. The passion and enthusiasm of the band completely won me over, so that by the end of the set I was punching my fist and cheering along with the ecstatic diehard fans in the nearly sold-out theater.

You may not care for metal, symphonic or otherwise. But Nightwish does. And they play it magnificently.

NIGHTWISH SET LIST
Introduction
End of All Hope
Wish I Had an Angel
10th Man Down
Come Cover Me
Gethsemane
Elan
Sacrament of Wilderness
Deep Silent Complete
Dead Boy’s Poem
Elvenjig / Elvenpath
I Want My Tears Back
The Carpenter
The Kinslayer
Devil & the Deep Dark Ocean
Nemo
Slaying the Dreamer
The Greatest Show on Earth
Ghost Love Score

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