Nightwish * London, Astoria * 26th March 2008
London, as you may be aware, is a pretty big place. Regardless of this, all you can see this week are Nightwish shirts seemingly everywhere, as the Finnish maestros are playing three consecutive shows at the Astoria, their first for a few years. Reports of last nights gig have been almost universally positive, something I can back up as this is my second gig in as many days.
Having been rather bored by industrial metal combo Pain last night, we contrive to miss their set. Okay, so this may not be the most professional of attitudes, but my poor old feet aren’t getting any younger, and they were refusing to stand through a second dose of the respectable but repetitive band. It’s Nightwish we’re here for, and there’s a full crowd or similar minded people, some of whom are almost foaming at the mouth in anticipation. The epic nature and personal lyrics of Nightwish seems to earn them some of the most dedicated fans in rock music, although there is, as they say ‘a lot of love in the room’. It’s a good atmosphere, one that goes suitably mental when the lights finally go down just after nine.
The intro (from ‘The Passion Of The Christ’ apparently) seems to go on forever, finally ending as Jukka bangs out the starting beats for ‘Bye Bye Beautiful’, perhaps the perfect choice of opener as they finally allow UK fans to say goodbye to the old and hello to the new. Right on cue, Anette graces the stage to show everyone just why she was given one of the most difficult jobs in rock. Dressed quite simply, she smiles and dances as she sings, giving out a positive, happy vibe that was sorely lacking in the bands previous singer. Her voice never falters through teh likes of ’Dark Chest Of Wonders’ and the upbeat ’Whoever Brings The Night’, and she even handles ’the Siren’ like a pro.
As with any band, Anette is the obvious focal point, but this isn’t to say the rest of the band don’t get a look in. Guitarist Emppu, for example, scuttles about like a manic hamster, striking metal poses every time he spots a camera trained on him and having a whale of a time. Bizarrly beaded bassist (nice phrase) Marco also seems upbeat, with his vocals surpassing those on the album, surprising me with their clarity. Stuck on the left side of the stage, keyboard player and songwriter Tuomas (complete with Jack Sparrow figure) is kept busy through the night , as is Jukka, who does an excellent job on the drums. There are no solos to break the pace, just bloody good songs, bloody well played.
For me, the double highlight comes when the band break into the horribly catchy ‘Amaranth’, only to follow it with ‘The Poet & The Pendulum’, for me the best song of 2007. Live, it is enormously emotional, reminding me that I never, ever want to take a stroll through Tuomas’ mind. Throughout the set, Anette stamps her personality on the crowd, encouraging them to dance, clap along and raise their fists (and yell). Vocally, she’s great, and I love her versions of old classics such as ‘Wishmaster’ and ‘Nemo’, the latter of which gets a massive crowd response. The most defining moment comes during the encores, as she dons a pair of day glo pink deely boppers (springy head things) that have been thrown on stage, happy to make herself look quite silly whilst singing the deadly serious ‘Wishmaster’. Brilliant, and something you can’t quite imagine Tarja doing... [someone captured the deely boppers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cB5BrVvB9Wo]
The biggest surprise of the night (for those who weren't here last night, anyway) is the appearance of special guest Troy, who plays the whistle and Irish Pipes through the double whammy of ‘The Islander’ and instrumental piece ‘Last Of The Wilds’. It’s a great performance, and a welcome one. The only downer on the night is the non inclusion of ‘Seven Days To the Wolf’, possibly omitted due to local curfew rules. There are a few moans at the ninety minute set length, but as far as I’m concerned it’s just about right, with enough time to be entertained but not enough to feel restless. Then again, there are people here who would happily have the band play through all their albums non stop and then still moan that they missed off a B side or two. Me, I loved it, and as we chuckle at the T-shit bootleggers outside (who are all drenched in the rain) I feel that warm glow that only comes from an exceptional concert.