Review and Photos by Samantha Wu
Two of the best Northern European metal bands played a sold-out show at The Phoenix last Friday – Finland’s Nightwish with Sweden’s Sabaton. For metal fans, this would be a show to remember. Nightwish has seen a few leading ladies grace the microphone in their history – Tarja Turunen, Anette Olzon, and in 2013 Floor Jansen, former lead of After Forever, took over the Nightwish helm. After seeing Jansen in performance videos and interviews, I was greatly intrigued to see her in person.
The show was indeed sold out as fans arrived in waves to stand in line. Two lines, actually, for different ticket holders which made for a rather confusing and frustrating wait to get inside. Luckily, I made it with enough time for Sabaton to take the stage. The six-piece appeared wearing matching camouflage indicative of the common theme that threads through many of their lyrics – war and battle. I hadn’t heard much from Sabaton previous to their set, but what I saw – the strength of their musicianship and the charismatic magnetism from lead singer Joakim Brodén had me sold. Their songs are rife with catchy hooks and contagious rhythms that are perfect to get a crowd on their feet – “To Hell and Back” and “Carolus Rex” are perfect examples of this. What I’m starting to believe is a common trait among European bands is the amount of fun the members seem to have on stage, especially on foreign soil. Case in point, Sabaton lead the crowd in a roaring rendition of “YMCA” during their set. Their anthem to ancient Swedish Vikings “Swedish Pagans” appeared to be the obvious crowd favorite.
It wasn’t long after that Nightwish took the crowd on a journey through the band’s varied discography. Many fans refer to band’s history as broken up by the eras designated by the leading lady of the time – the Tarja Era, Anette Era, and Floor Era. This performance highlighted the best songs of all those stages with Floor’s strong and powerful voice nailing each note – from the full soprano notes of Tarja’s years to the coquettish and soft purr from Anette’s legacy. Floor Jansen is a force to be reckoned with on that stage. She’s tall and rather Amazon-like which gives her a great commanding presence – she’s a thrill to watch.
The real beauty of Nightwish’s set stems from their embracing of old songs – including one song from their very beginning, one they had removed from the touring set list for many years, “Stargazers”, which Floor was excited to finally be able to sing. Their inclusion of “Ever Dream” sent fans to their feet shouting for more while “Sleeping Sun” brought tears to their eyes. Or was that just me? Another very touching moment in the set was when Marco Hietala, bassist and male vocalist, took to the stage solo to perform “The Islander,” one of the rare Nightwish tracks where Marco shines on lead vocals and fans are treated to his deeply rich and nuanced voice.
This performance was part of Nightwish’s North American tour for their latest album Endless Forms Most Beautiful released last month. As is expected, a number of tracks from the album were featured including “Élan” and “My Walden” as well as selections from their 24-minute epic “The Greatest Show on Earth” were used to bookend their set.
Songs from their Imaginaerum days, where the album was the soundtrack for their own movie, also featured prominently in this performance as fans sang back the lyrics to “I Want My Tears Back”, “Storytime” and to cap it off, “Last Ride of the Day” during their encore.
The performance didn’t contain all of Nightwish’s old fan favorite hits, but that’s because there are simply so many, a testament to the band’s success. The performance was simply outstanding and fans exited into the cool spring night elated. The addition of Floor Jansen’s to the band’s line-up feels like the perfect fit. I hope she stays around for a long time.
To Hell and Back
Soldier of 3 Armies
Resist and Bite
(Intro – The Greatest Show on Earth)
Shudder Before the Beautiful
Yours is an Empty Hope
She is My Sin
Endless Forms Most Beautiful
I Want My Tears Back
The Greatest Show on Earth
Ghost Love Score
Last Ride of the Day