I was a little hesitant about buying tickets to see Finland’s Nightwish on their current tour. The press release promoting the tour was promising to feature “rarely heard material from the earlier era,” but these weren’t the songs that had drawn me to the band. I had discovered the band after stumbling across their Showtime, Storytime video on YouTube and the newer songs from their twenty-plus year career are the ones that had made them one of my favorite bands. These are the songs I wanted to see them play.
I should have had more faith.
As advertised, the two and a half hour setlist relied heavily on material recorded before their breakthrough album “Once”. In fact, only about a third were from the current half of their catalog. However, as promised in the tour material they revisited these “old songs with some new twists.” These twists came in the form of their two newest members, singer Floor Jansen and multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley.
It was Donockley who had first drawn my interest to the band as his uilleann pipes had given the band a unique sound. On the older songs, he added depth with backing guitar parts, assorted instruments and, backing vocals. Jansen took that interest and held it with her amazing vocal talent and showmanship. Like her predecessor, she used her operatic training to soar, but she did it with the power of metal. Nowhere was this more obvious than in the set’s closer, Ghost Love Score. By the time she had sung the final notes of this song, it was clear that she owned it. It does not matter who originally recorded those vocals, she has made the song her own.
Even more importantly, the newest line-up seems to have brought cohesiveness to the band. They played with a sense of fun that brought new life to their old songs. Guitarist Emppu Vuorinen was mischievous as he teased his bandmates and made frequent eye contact with the audience. Bassist Marco Hietala smiled throughout and appeared to be having the time of his life. In this outing, keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen seemed less like the leader and more comfortable letting his bandmates be musical partners.
In Anaheim and throughout the North American leg of the tour, the band played on the small stage. Next, they will embark on the European leg where they will hit festival stages with full-scale production. To see them in this element is a wish worth pursuing.