Nightwish at the Forum Theatre | Awesome gigs I should have said something about at the time

The best movies, the best social catch-ups, and commonly the best gigs are often the ones we attend with zero expectations — “zero expectations” here meaning exactly that: no expectations of any sort, as compared to expectations that are low or high.
So it was with precisely zero expectations that I found myself seeing Nightwish at extremely short notice, at Melbourne’s Forum Theatre. This was on January 11, 2016 — exactly one year ago — and in the tradition of unexpected things, I rate it as one of the best ‘unplanned’ (sort of) gigs I’ve ever been to, especially since at the time I didn’t own a single item from the Nightwish discography.
The backstory to this awesome-gig-I-should-have-said-something-about-at-the-time involved lots of uhming and ahing on my part. I had given serious consideration to seeing them with a friend but unfortunately I put off getting a ticket until after discovering it had sold out. Said friend — to whom I cannot emphasise strongly enough how eternally grateful I will forever be — ended up not being able to go at the last moment and kindly provided me with her ticket. The result is best described as that bitter sweet phenomenon where you check out a band whose music you don’t actively follow but you still know who they are, and then you discover how brilliant they are live but it’s bitter sweet because you wished you’d gotten into them sooner.
The classic style of the Forum Theatre in Melbourne was so very appropriate.

I recommend you check out Nightwish live if, like me, you happen to know who Nightwish are but either don’t know their music well or only know their top 40. It will all make sense on the stage, how all that flamboyance and grandiose symphonic style transformed a heavy metal group from a small town in Finland into the country’s biggest music export.
However, almost as epic as the degree of commercial success of Nightwish is the level of drama and controversy. Founded in 1996, Nightwish (very publicly) fired their first two vocalists under very acrimonious (and again, very public) circumstances. But that didn’t detract from the superbness of this show.
From the moment they opened with Shudder Before The Beautiful from then-still-most-recent-Nightwish-album Endless Forms Most Beautiful it was clear that this show would be quite something. Nightwish singer 3.0 Floor Jansen’s soaring voice is out of this world-grade brilliant, and the general sound quality — something you value highly when you’ve been to enough gigs with terrible sound — was excellent.
There were further surprises for a first-timer like me. I discovered that bassist Marco Hietala has an incredible voice, as heard in his backup vocals and one or two tracks on which he sang lead. Marco is obviously not the primary singer but he is, to quote a friend, “a proper power metal vocalist with his own other band”.
Floor Jansen's voice is just killer.

The most pleasing discovery would have to be Uilleann pipes man Troy Donockley, now a permanent member. The stand-out was the epically magnificent pipe solo on the track I Want My Tears Back, because there's something diabolically catchy about pipes, let alone Uilleann pipes, played by one of the very best.
Less impressive was the fact that Floor Jansen seemed to disappear through the back of the stage every five minutes. Whether this was because she was required to fix her makeup, wipe off the sweat, or ensure that main-man Tuomas Holopainen wasn’t getting upstaged by her presence, I will never know.
Indeed, Nightwish detractors like to point out that Nightwish — or rather Tuomas Holopainen, being the primary composer — disappeared up Nightwish’s ass some years ago. To paraphrase the same friend from before, Nightwish used to be a ‘proper’ metal band with distinct riffs and solos, but are now more concerned with drowning everything except for vocals in layers of studio production.
I don’t full agree with this notion but I can tell you that this gig led directly to me buying my first Nightwish album, Imaginaerum — which I found very disappointing.
Yes, I get that it’s an indulgent concept album, but save for three chorus-soaring epic singalongs — Storytime, the previously mentioned I Want My Tears Back, and giant concert closer Last Ride Of The Day — I found Imaginaerum didn’t stand up to long-term listening. But for those three brilliant corkers, I found Imaginaerum sooo dull, none more so than on the 13:38-long Song For Myself.

Guess which ones are the best.

However, none of this came through during the gig. Yeah, there were a few moments that the hard-and-fast heavy metal lover in me found a bit snoozey, but otherwise it was a superb live show, and anyone who wasn’t smiling their arses off by the end was either comatose or deceased.
Nightwish are a first-rate live act and this came through as clearly as possible at this sold out Australian show.
The sound at the Forum was excellent too.

As I said, this gig was approached with zero expectations, and it turned out to be great. I will definitely try to catch them live again, although the degree of expectation this time will obviously be different. Knowing what I experienced, those high expectations will hopefully be well-founded. Just as long as Tuomas and the rest of Nightwish keep their egos in check (or aren’t allegedly taken out of context when purportedly dissing other bands). Then there those comments about Floor Jansen being “the last” Nightwish vocalist.

Seeing as their track record with retaining vocalists ain’t that great, let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

1 comment:

  1. I've read before that it took Nightwish 18 years and 3 vocalist to finally find themselves. And I partially agree to that. I'm so sorry to hear your first disc was Imaginaerum. There are so much better choices! And you hit the spot when you say this is a band to see live. Many bands disappoint live. I feel Nightiwsh is always better!!