Live Report - Nightwish, Joensuu Arena, Joensuu, 2.3.2012
Symphonic Metal

Release year: 0
Reviewed by Aleksie
Nightwish may not be among the overall largest exports that Finland has to show in terms of national numbers, but year after year it has become abundantly clear that the band is writing the local record books of rock and metal pretty much by itself. After pitching an American West Coast fastball of an album release gig and some heavy metal cruising, 70.000 ton-style, the band came to my university town of Joensuu (just an hour drive east from the city of Kitee, Nightwish’s birthplace) and the local ice arena to officially open the Imaginaerum world tour. Unfortunately some work hurries made me miss the opening set by domestic hard rollers Poisonblack but such is life.

Facing the stage prior to any intros, the gargantuan white cloth covering the stage seemed very unassuming. Then when the opening track of the new record, Taikatalvi, cracked into the air, a large, easily 20-30 foot silhouette was illuminated onto the makeshift canvas from the stage. T’was the gold-throated bass player Marco Hietala in a rocking chair, recounting the song’s soothing tale that set a very appropriate and ominous opening mood for the gig. As the opening blasts of Storytime began rolling, the white canvas was shredded into several separate strips by the wind machines, creating a very ghostly visual that covered the entire stage for the first verse. For a few moments I even thought if the opening-show glitches had hit the canvas and it was supposed to come down already. but when the majority of the song had the band in plain sight and Wish I Had An Angel began putting a groove on the crowd, the thought was dismissed.

In general, the visual aids were in extremely fine form this evening. The lightstorm was dazzling indeed, the confetti cannon locked and loaded, the flame pillars made good work barbequing the first few rows, one ballad was accommodated by an indoor snowfall and even Tuomas Holopainen’s keyboard arsenal had gotten a facelift. The whole set was covered in a mock-organworks casing so that Tuomas was a white mask short of emulating the phantom of the opera very nicely. Above all this though, shone the ginormous video screen that gave custom-made visuals for each tune. As a detail, almost every song featured some fiery eyes staring at the audience, which was something that all symbolism-nuts could bite into.

Even though the best tune of the new album, Scaretale, colored the first half of the set nicely, by this time you could tell pretty clearly that this was the first show of the tour. The whole crew played nicely, but there was a slight sense of phoning it in while all the massive “extracurriculars” were tested in action etc. On the main microphone, Anette Olzon needed to stretch out for the first half but got things rolling, amusingly enough, during the most oddball song choice of the concert: Imaginaerum’s slice of smoky jazz, Slow, Love, Slow. And they smoothed it up really good. I can see if this lounge-cut wasn’t everybody’s cup of ale on the album (personally, I liked it) but the band made it work all the way to Jukka Nevalainen’s shuffling drum work.

A different type of calm was brought after the halfway mark, with a short acoustic segment. The predictable choice of The Islander flowed by nicely on the strength of Hietala’s magical voice. A bigger surprise was the band’s newly arranged “unplugged” take on their big hit Nemo. I have to say that the choice was a good one. This more subtle style fitted Olzon’s voice much better than the semi-operatic one that Tarja Turunen laid down on the original on Once.

Also as a special treat, part of the show featured some melodic assistance from the band’s frequent guesting-on-albums-pipemaster, Mr. Troy Donockley, whose Uilleann pipes rang beautifully through cuts like I Want My Tears Back and Last of the Wilds. His flavouring even gave some welcome spicing to the otherwise worn-out cover of Gary Moore’s Over the Hills and Far Away. That certain folksy troubadour spirit was a nice touch.

All in all, despite the slow start of a tour’s opening show, this gig promised good things for the Nightwish’s trek around the world. All senses were indulged properly and the new material fit into the setlist really well. Fans of the early days will probably be disappointed that nothing from the first four albums was featured (a fact which of course may change as the tour goes on – I’ve seen at least Dead To the World and Come Cover Me on more recent setlists), but them’s the breaks with the band’s current mindset. In any case, the biggest positive notion that I can give about this show was that the band itself looked like it had a damn good time on stage and were loose about it. Whether you subjectively prefer Turunen and her operatic style or Olzon and her poppier voice, I think it’s a fact that in this formation Nightwish is a clearly superior live act – more relaxed, edgy and most of all convincing.

Wish I Had An Angel
The Siren
Slow, Love, Slow
I Want My Tears Back
The Crow, the Owl and the Dove
The Islander (Acoustic)
Nemo (Acoustic)
Last of the Wilds
Planet Hell
Song of Myself
Last Ride of the Day

The Poet and the Pendulum
Over the Hills and Far Away

Killing Songs :
Aleksie quoted no quote
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