NIGHTWISH BACK IN THEIR HOMETOWN !
Kitee Ice Hall, Finland, May 22nd, 2004. Bands: Dunces, Timo Rautiainen & Trio Niskalaukaus, Nightwish
It was an exciting day for thousands of people, when Nightwish was about to play their huge show in their hometown Kitee, which was the first gig on their year and a half-long world tour. Many journalists and fans travelling from at least 20 different countries across the seas were going to take part in this unforgettable, enormous evening. The Ice Hall was sold out, which meant over 4000 people were going to witness the event. RockUnited travelled 450 kilometers one way to see the show, surely we had to be there and since we got guest passes from Nightwish manager Ewo Rytkönen, we definately had to use them, we were honoured of such attention. As the road got closer to Kitee, the scenery changed bit by bit to more country like and I was intrigued by visiting such place, after all my family roots are from Karelia, the part which was lost to Soviet Union during the Winter War in the beginning of 1940'ies. But Kitee still belongs to Finland though. It's a small place of over 10,000 inhabitants, with beautiful nature and hospitable and happy people.
When we arrived to the town of Kitee, there were probably more cars and people ever seen before, though many stayed indoors due to the weather, most of the time it looked like it was about to pour loads of water on us. But still we had to cruise for a while with our car looking for a parking place, until we realized that we actually can park it near the Kitee Ice Hall, where it all happens. Walking to the area we couldn't stop wondering how huge and important event this was for Kitee. The place was packed with fans and people selling food, t-shirts and other stuff. Even Nightwish beer was sold. They also have their own stamps now. Anyone can develop stamps in Finland from own photos, though they have to be decent. Earlier Nightwish had kept a press conference and on the same day as the show a signing session, which we weren't able to attend, and smaller bands had their own shows somewhere outside. Before getting in we bumped into the father of the keysman Tuomas Holopainen, shook hands with him and I couldn't believe how much Tuomas has his looks and how peaceful and calm his father was, just like Tuomas. Many parents would probably freak out on such event, with so many metalheads filling the place and if that wouldn't do it for them, at least your kid playing in a metal band isn't the most desired career parents want for their offspring. But Tuomas' father was smiling and seemed pleased about it all. Well, why not, Nightwish are doing damn great in finnish books.
The Ice Hall inside was kept dark during the whole event, which isn't usual at all. At least during the breaks they usually hit the lights. We had a hard time getting our gear ready in the dark, and the open doors brought chilling air inside and made us shiver from the cold. The schedule was ahead from what we had, so we missed out on Dunces, another good band hailing from Kitee, who are also friends with Nightwish. Shame really, I would've wanted to see them live also. But Trio Niskalaukaus gathered up the fans near the stage and everyone was having fun already. The band was given gold records for their latest album "Kylmä Tila", which was released in March and Tuomas also stepped on stage for co-operating with the band. The younger side of the crowd were quite drunk, it was like the normal scene from the finnish youth centers. But there were older people too, parents of the musicians, media, friends, parents of the kids who came to see the show and so on. But everyone seemed to enjoy the concerts. The members of Nightwish were walking around the area, at least Tuomas, Marco Hietala, bass, and Emppu Vuorinen, guitar, and people were asking for autographs. But the fans seemed to give the members enough space, as they could watch the support bands quite peacefully from the side of the stage. But when it comes to their singer Tarja Turunen, she's got the toughest part in the band. She has to avoid the crowd, she's so popular. The press area was filled with people, a scene you can imagine at a festival but not in a single concert, unless we talk about a huge foreign band that is. Eventhough people were working here, lots of beer was poured down the throats of any media. We decided to stay clear from liquids this time, as our weekend had been really rough and we still had a Wasp show the next day to go to and lots of driving to do. Amazingly (or not really) there were many familiar faces we also see in Helsinki. Finland is such a small country and when you're talking metal, it's even smaller.
When Nightwish started the set I found a good place on the stairs in the back of the hall right across the hall, looking straight to the middle of the stage. First it crossed my mind I wouldn't be needing ear-plugs as I was so far away from the stage, but as the first bombs exploded in the first song, "Dark Chest Of Wonders", I started digging for my plugs before my ears started bleeding. The explosions were so huge it must've been hell in front of the stage. Hopefully everyone was safe though. This was a bit too loud and huge for any shows. But the sounds were as good as they could be in an Ice Hall, any band would suffer from the echo places like these have. The crowd filled some of the echoing space though, so it wasn't a disaster really. Every instrument and Tarja's voice came out very clear to where I was. It wasn't the perfect show from Nightwish, but with such small mishaps who cares ? The show of course included pyrotechnics, and the flames were so huge, that the warmth coming from them also hit the back of the hall so hard it was starting to get quite warm. Again the first row must've had a blast...The band seemed to enjoy themselves on stage, familiar moves filled the stage and the band filled the big stage really well. All of the members have such egos (and I'm talking good egos), that this band will never have trouble having a boring show. Emppu seems to be really keen to his spot on stage, as he drove away Marco from there. Tarja's opera-like act and her dresses are a sight to see too. She kept changing her gowns and in all of them she looked like a Goddess. "Wishmaster" was the next song and the fans love this song. The stage was also decorated with three screens in front of the stage, projecting strange images and water flowing from them and the smell of chlorine was filling the entire hall. After "Wishmaster" Tarja welcomed the crowd to their celebration of the release of the new album "Once". In finnish she said exactly (to those curious ones): "Tervetuloa juhlistamaan kanssamme uuden levyn julkaisua". So far she was wearing the gown already seen on the "Nemo"-video.
One of the amazing parts in the show was when Tarja sang the highest notes ever heard from her. She sounded amazing. The non-amazing part of the show was the crowd, it was unbelievable how lame they were. Or then they were just tired like me after a long day and amazed by Nightwish's appearance and finally hearing them play live those graceful, touching songs. During "Nemo" the water started flowing on the screens and people were really into this song, singing along quite well during the evening. After that it was time for Marco to have his speach. "Planet Hell" introduced red and green lights to the crowd with the perfect hellish atmosphere. The new songs seemed to get the crowd going the best, though the last song "I Wish I Had An Angel" wakened questions among them and didn't get much reaction. But of course no one except the media hadn't yet heard the song. As fans already know, the next song "Higher Than Hope" is dedicated to a Nightwish fan close to the members, who slept away some time ago. Tuomas introduced the song and it is one of the best songs ever written by the band, among with "Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan". Megadeth-cover "Symphony Of Destruction" didn't seem to work as well as it should've. Marco sang this one and eventhough his voice is amazing and I truely admire him, I've never heard anyone fill Dave Mustaine's boots perfectly. His voice is very unique and the way he uses it. It can either irritate you or kick you in the...well, you know. So this version sounded strange to my ears, being a huge Megadeth fan from the start. They played the gristle-mix of it, which Megadeth also made a video from, and the version worked fine otherwise. "Elvenpath" was one of the songs among "Sleeping Sun" that didn't also work that well live. The last song before encore, "Over The Hills And Far Away", opened the confetti flow, the air was filled with red colour and the confetti reached almost every corner of the hall and made the show feel even more festive. "Dead Boy's Poem" was a beautiful encore, too bad the backing tape with Hardwick's voice wasn't loud enough to be heard, his speach is a very important part of the song. "Phantom Of The Opera" was definately one of the highlights too, and the vocals worked quite brilliantly on this one. As a conclusion to the show the band was presented platinum records from the Nemo-single, and even Pip Williams, Mikko Karmila and Tero Kinnunen stepped on stage. The band thanked for the amazing support they've gotten from the fans and of the unforgettable evening and with bows left the stage with "Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan" background tape filling the hall with its melancholia. And as the banner advertised on the wall, "Kitee know-how" ("Kiteeläistä osaamista"), Nightwish sure don't lack know-how, they ooze of voluptuous atmosphere that takes possession of most metal fans who ever come across this band. The set was quite long, it was somewhere around 00.30 when we left the hall and the band begun their set somewhere around ten o'clock.
The night continued after the show in the local combined motel/club, which was packed with the concert goers, though the music they played definately wasn't the best for that evening. We couldn't stay there as we had an early wake up call and wouldn't have even wanted to, as the music performed was from finnish entertainment pioneers (say, music for retired people) and disco. The city seemed lively at least for a while, eventhough it was quite late by now. We headed to our hotel further away from the city and felt really tired, but it was well worth it all. Kitee is a place one must visit and travelling is always fun, not forgetting how the concert experiences vary from place to another. This was something else, not for Kitee only, but for Finland as well.
Thank you to Ewo Rytkönen and Nightwish for another good show and friends who travelled with us and brought some more spirit to the trip.