It is no secret that Finland’s Nightwish is one the world’s most well-known and respected Symphonic Metal bands. Formed back in 1996 by main Composer and Keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen, he envisioned a band that would embody an “atmospheric mood” that included flutes, strings, acoustic guitars, piano, and a female vocalist. Accomplishing such a feat, Nightwish’s popularity grew rapidly with Tarja Turunen as their voice began with 1997’s Angel’s Fall First, 1998’s Oceanborn, and 2000’s Wishmaster. Becoming the talk of the European Metal scene, 2002’s Century Child would further their reach, but it was not until 2004 when they attained distribution via Nuclear Blast that they exploded in North America with Once. As fans know, it was a year after Once that Turunen and Nightwish parted ways, leaving the band’s future in question. They quickly rebounded with 2007’s Dark Passion Play, the first of two records to feature new vocalist Anette Olzon. A relationship that lasted six years, Olzon and Nightwish parted ways in 2012, again, leaving the band in limbo. Thankfully for fans, they invited the accomplished Floor Jansen to fill as vocalist. What was first announced as a temporary replacement soon became permanent, and now the former After Forever singer remains the voice of Nightwish while still fronting her own band ReVamp.
Now two decades since their birth, Nightwish has released nine exceptional albums, including 2015’s Endless Forms Most Beautiful, Jansen’s first recording with the band. Still riding the wave of positive feedback from the record, Nightwish return to North America for the second time in less than a year, this time with support from Sonata Arctica and Delain. A delightful lineup for European Rock lovers, the bill came to Hartford, CT on Saturday, February 20th to play a sold out show down at The Webster Theater.
In front of a wall to wall packed room, Dutch Gothic Rock/Symphonic Metal band Delain took the stage to a sea of screams, yells, and chants of excitement from the crowd. Formed back in 2002 by Vocalist Charlotte Wessels and former Within Temptation Keyboardist Martijn Westerholt, Delain was initially a musical venture to feature numerous guest musicians. Quickly becoming a full-time band, the band has released four studio albums, including 2014’s The Human Contradiction. Excited to return to North America alongside Nightwish once more, the lineup of Wessels, Westerholt, Ruben Israel (drums), Timo Somers (guitar), and newest member, Merel Bechtold (guitar) were ready to rock The Webster Hall.
Coming out amped up, Delain kicked off the set with their latest single off of 2016’s EP, Lunar Prelude, “Sucker punch.” The crowd was fully engaged from the first note as Guitarists Somers and Bechtold were totally invested in headbanging and playing some amazing guitar riffs, as Israel kept time with the bass back track of Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije. In addition, Westerholt provided a strong keyboard performance that accompanied the song, while Wessels vocals could not be denied as anything yet breathtaking. Next was “Get the Devil Out of Me,” which features Wessels on lead with Somers occasionally providing backing vocals. Harmonizing well, Bechtold loved playing to the crowd by putting her fist in the air to raise the excitement.
Continuing to arouse the audience, “Army of Dolls” and “Sleepwalkers Dream” followed with Somers and Bechtold playing guitar in unison, while Westerholt showed true talent on keys, adding a rich flavor to the songs. Next came Somers and Wessels uniting to sing the intro of “Turn the Lights Out.” Then Wessels took over singing softly, and channeling a bit of Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil. In tune with the fans, Wessels then stated, “This song is for all of you, for all of us,” as fans began to clap before the track “We Are The Others, ” begun with a strong steady drum beat and keys in the backdrop.
Keeping the crowd involved, Wessels asked for everyone to participate during the next song with jumping or dancing, and they did so as the band jammed into “Don’t Let Go.” To end the set, Wessels states to the crowd, “It’s been an absolute pleasure to play for you tonight,” with a big smile upon her face. Overwhelmed by the crowd’s response, Wessels and the band lifted off into “Not Enough.” With that said, the energy of the crowd was magical until the final notes. It seems that both fans and band appreciated the experience of sharing Delain’s music with one another. Wessels’ ability to engage the audience with a big smile on her face made the performance that much more enjoyable. Driven, yet humble, Delain’s lyrics and music have a strong message, and Wessels vocals are vastly unique and controlled, allowing her to soar one minute and down the next. Chances are they will be headlining more shows in North America sooner rather than later.
Next up was Nightwish’s country-mates from Kemi, Finland, the one and only Sonata Arctica. Also founded around twenty years ago, Sonata Arctica has also had an impressive international career in the Metal world. Debuting in 1999 with Ecliptica, the band followed up with one powerful record after another, their last being 2014’s Pariah’s Child. While the band has seen many lineup changes through the years, Vocalist Tony Kakko and Drummer Tommy Portimo have stood since the start as their current bandmates consist of Guitarist Elias Viljanen, Keyboardist Henrik Klingenberg, and Bassist Pasi Kauppinen. Marking their return to USA for the first time since 2014, Sonata Arctica was ready to reunite with their American fanbase.
Hitting the stage, everyone went crazy to the start of a drum beating and wind sound effect in the air. Kakko clapped his hands as the crowd followed and the set began with the melodic track “The Wolves Die Young.” Next came fan-favorite “My Land,” a song Kakko took advantage of having participation from most of the room who sang along to the “Ooooh, Oooh” on numerous occasions. Starting to pick up speed, “The 8th Commandment” rocked hard as Kakko launched it with a scream before showing off his vocal range. This was all while Portimo, Klingenberg, Kauppinen, and Viljanen played double-time in fierce fashion, bringing the music to life. Running his fingers up and down the fretboard of his guitar, Viljanen showed off his talent and playful side as he smiled toward the sea of people.
Keeping everyone’s interest, a beautiful melodic piano solo lifted off 2001’s “Tallulah.” Here, Katto sat on the drum rise and sang with vulnerability and passion that was quite amazing. With the keys steady, the rest of the band entered with tight instrumentation for a full symphonic orchestra sound. Then came Viljanen’s guitar solo that proved to be a magnificent addition to the ballad. Taking the time to thank the audience after the song’s conclusion, Katto started singing a capella thereafter with fans clapping along to Ecliptica track “FullMoon.” A older classic from Sonata Arctica, many were heard singing along “Runaway Runaway” during the chorus while Viljanen’s solo dueled with Klingenberg’s keys during a breakdown.
Going into 2012’s “I Have a Right,” more sing alongs came during the very catchy chorus as Sonata Arctica’s instrumentation was in unison. Constantly conversing with the room, before the last song, Katto yelled to the crowd, “Is there something you need?” He then broke the crowd into three groups; left, middle, and right. Fulfilling their needs, the band closed out with the fast-paced song “Don’t Say a Word.” All in all, Sonata Arctica was a well-oiled machine through and through as they captured the crowd with their highly symphonic brand of Rock. Those who are interested, the band will be also partaking in headlining shows in the USA beginning March 25th and concluding April 3rd.
As the crowd eagerly awaited Nightwish, their eyes watched the band’s equipment team setting up on the stage. On both sides of the platform stood pop ups of light brown and white shells, the backdrop was one full spiraling coil in the same colors. Then, with the room lighting blacking out, a mist started filling the stage and the introduction music of Hans Zimmerman’s “Roll Tide” was playing. First appearing was Bassist/Vocalist Marco Hietala, Guitarist Emppu Vuorinen, Drummer Kai Hahto, Multi-Instrumentalist Troy Donockley, and of course, Keyboardist Holopainen. With hollows and claps that was almost deafening, without warning, a wall of keyboards and orchestration filled the room with the track “Shudder Before The Beautiful.” With the music in full bloom, Jansen approached the stage as she sang in impassioned fashion with her operatic style voice. Putting her hands in the air, fans followed, and yells of “yeah, yeah, yeah” took over. As the song concluded, Jansen asks, “Shall we make this a special night?” as the rest of Nightwish went into “Yours Is an Empty Hope.” Laced with heavy guitar and haunting keyboard undertones, Jansen’s voice soared over the top as Hietala’s distinctive singing joined in.
Following the heavy dose of newer songs, Nightwish opted to go back in time when Holopainen began the opening keyboard works of 2002’s “Ever Dream” before Jansen entered with a soprano vocal. Capturing the energy of the fans, Jansen offers the microphone, inviting everyone to sing along to the mesmerizing, beautiful piece. Keeping with older favorites, “She Is My Sin” opened with the classic high energy keyboards intertwined with heavy guitar riffs. Flashing forward to the present once more, Donockley stared the song on vocals for “My Walden,” before adding his unmistakable pipework later on. A song that comes across organically, the entire band shined as playing their respective instruments and Jansen joined in with her voice to unit all their abilities into one.
Changing things up a bit, they went into the 2008 digital-only release “While Your Lips Are Still Red,” which began with beautiful piano performance while Hietala sang softly and with vulnerability. Joining in, Jansen dueted with Hietala during the chorus and Donockley played the flute throughout the song. Taking the time to complement Hietala’s singing, next came the first studio recording fans ever heard of Jansen as Nightwish’s vocalist, and that song was “Élan.” With traditional Folk sound, the song was welcomed by fans and is certainly a modern Nightwish favorite.
Keeping the story-like atmosphere of Endless Forms Most Beautiful flowing, a Darwin Narration played over the speakers prior to the heavy guitar driven song “Weak Fantasy.” Thereafter, a steady drum beat began 2007’s Dark Passion Play percussion based “7 Days to the Wolves.” Jansen ignited fans to clap and sing along, driving the passion behind the music home. This was the perfect segue into 2011’s Imaginaerum tracks “Storytime” and “I Want My Tears Back.” Both having different meanings, they share an intensity that shows off the talent of all of Nightwish as Jansen herself danced around. Of course, a Nightwish set is not complete without the sorrowful “Nemo,” and that is what the band offered next, taking their fans on a true musical journey.
Stating she was glad to be in Hartford, Jansen thanked the crowd before they went into 1998’s Symphonic Metal masterpiece “Stargazers.” Providing more flawless operatic style, Jansen had the crowd once more chanting along and clapping their hands. Then, seeming as if the show could not get anymore the epic, Once composition “Ghost Love Score” began. Filled with rich textures, the soundscape was topped off with operatic vocals, symphonic strings, and keyboard playing alongside wind instruments and heavy guitar.
Departing from the stage, the night seemed all but over, but fans wanted more. With that, Nightwish returned for an encore that commenced with “The Last Ride,” which had everyone in pure bliss. This led into the final segment of Nightwish’s show when they played two portions of the lengthy composition “The Greatest Show on Earth.” A track that would be marvelous to hear in its entirety, fans were elated to hear them play “Chapter II: Life; Chapter III: The Toolmaker” before their final exit as “Chapter IV: The Understanding; Chapter V: Sea-Worn Driftwood” played over the speakers. With the audio still playing, Nightwish said their final goodbyes and took one last deserved bow to the whole venue cheering.
Nightwish has put together a perfect tour with Sonata Arctica and Delain. As for themselves, it is easy to see why Nightwish has such a cult-like following. Each song tells a unique story and they are masterful at bringing them to life in front of their fans. Jansen has been a wonderful addition to the Nightwish family and fans hope her time with the band is well-extended into the future. There are still plenty of chance to see Nightwish between now and March 23rd, when the tour ends, so act fast and get out and see them.