NIGHTWISH is one hell of a band these days, now that they have their strongest line-up yet, so it’s no small wonder why they are so highly sought and so seldomly found by journalists in Finland. However, when it comes to promotion, these guys are sure to make time when they have a new release coming out. Now, with “Vehicle of Spirit” on the way, we had a long-awaited chance to meet the Goddess of Heavy Metal herself, Floor Jansen, and have a look at the live footage from Wembley’s SSE Arena.
We arrived at the designated location in Helsinki center around 14:10, where the Finnish medias were gathering around, and greeted the managers and other press representatives. Everyone was smiling and looking calm and collected, as though they were confident that we would be satisfied with what we were soon to see.
When everyone had gathered, we piled into a taxi and headed to the rustic KalevalaStudio in Maunula. We were told that this was less of a recording studio, and more of a mixing site, particularly for videos. The room with the mixing console had several seats set up, and we left our bags in the center, where someone had mentioned that the sound quality was best. Marko Hietala and Floor Jansen were present to watch the show with us, with Tuomas Holopainen promising to show up after the viewing for his interviews with some of the other medias. In the kitchen, one of the band’s managers handed each of us a drink and offered some snacks before the show got started. At around 15:00, Marko Hietala stood up and introduced the Wembley show to us (in Finnish), and then the camera rolled.
My first thought was that the visuals were incredible, though the studio screen was not optimized for viewing – I’m sure it’ll be out on Blu-Ray and I recommend paying the extra few bucks for it. As well, the sound mixing (and studio sound system) were unbelievable. Everything was in perfect balance, with one exception that I’ll get to in a moment. In fact, about 30 seconds in I was already wishing that “The Theater Equation“ had had this sort of recording and mixing quality.
The DVD opened with “Shudder Before the Beautiful,” which had a very strong electronic keyboard presence that sounded quite different on the album. The pyrotechnics could have started a bit earlier on, as the song is dynamic enough to allow it, but fortunately it did have some fog cannons, sparks, and flares toward the end. That said, we expect that the Ratina show’s visuals will be even more astounding than Wembley’s – the bigger venue and open-air setting, along with the bigger stage and catwalk, allowed for even more to be done with the lights and pyros.
“Yours is an Empty Hope” has always been my least favorite song off “Endless Forms Most Beautiful,” but on this viewing we happened to notice that the growling vocals were a bit louder than they were on the album – if you read the review, you might have noticed that I was wondering who had been growling faintly in the background of the chorus. Well, my question was answered – it was Ms. Jansen herself! Good lord, it gave me chills! We weren’t 100% certain that it was her at first, but she confirmed it afterwards after the interview. It’s a shame that the growling vocals still weren’t as loud as they could’ve been, but Jansen expressed some appreciation that we had noticed and liked it. This was already one of Jana’s favorite songs from “Endless Forms,” but at least for me, I suddenly found myself totally blown away by my least-favorite song from that album.
“Storytime” has progressed so nicely with Jansen on vocals nowadays that I almost feel as though it’s one of her original songs. Troy Donockley got to live out a dream he’s had since he was 9 years old by saying, “Good evening Wembley,” before “My Walden” and appreciation for him was shown in return via a crowd shot of a few audience members holding a big sign that read, “We love Troy‘s massive pipe.” Again, referring back to my review of “Endless Forms,” I was glad to finally learn that it was actually Mr. Donockley who did the vocals at the beginning of “My Walden” (as well as the weird caveman sounds in “The Greatest Show on Earth” that I had always assumed were on a backing track).
I hadn’t wanted to spoil the show for myself by looking at the tracklist beforehand, so when they started playing “While Your Lips are Still Red,” I had to contain my excitement. I have been quoted many times calling that one of the most beautiful songs ever written, and as it wasn’t an “official” NIGHTWISH song, I never expected to hear it live, and even if I was so lucky, I wouldn’t have expected Jansen to be singing backing vocals as well. The harmonizing was just gorgeous. At this point, it was hard to believe the show could do anything else to possibly please me more. Then they went on to play “7 Days to the Wolves,” a personal favorite from that era, which undoubtedly benefited from the addition of Donockley‘s mandolin, and “The Poet and the Pendulum” a bit later, the latter being the top Anette Olzon -era song I had wanted to hear Jansen sing. Also, it was great to see Kai Hahto get a moment in the spotlight when he was giving a short heavy drumming intro to “Weak Fantasy.”
“Nemo” was a nice inclusion, and I again dig the addition of the pipes, as well as the face-off between Emppu Vuorinen [guitar] and Donockley in the solo. It was also fun to see Hietala whistling during “Stargazers” – a bit of whimsical fun that really shows how much they enjoy being on stage together. And it goes without saying, but “Ghost Love Score” was breathtaking.
Of course, because this was the Endless Forms Most Beautiful Tour, the show ended with “The Greatest Show on Earth,” which I admit still isn’t quite as fantastic in the indoor setting as it was outside, but I had no idea that there was a guest appearance by Richard Dawkins himself, delivering the final beautiful lines. It gave me a chill right up my spine – I can only imagine what it was like to be there in person. As a special treat, Hietala then let us watch the same song again from the Ratina show while the interviews got started. I will again say that Ratina was visually far superior, and as a result, the whole thing felt far grander and more moving, though it didn’t have the extra bonus of having Richard Dawkins there. I’d be lying if I said the firework show, as seen from the crowd and the drone cam, did not make up for it in some way.
You might wonder how this performance compares to the one in “Showtime, Storytime,” and while I agree that it’s a hard thing to compare because these are two different places in time for the band, I think the performance as a whole was much tighter. At the time of the last DVD, Jansen was still quite new to the band, but now it’s easy to see that she has found her place with them and they’ve gotten into a good rhythm while performing.
I will confess that I was already going to pre-order this DVD from the moment I found out the Ratina show would be included, but if I had had any doubt about my previous decision, it would’ve been already wash away a mere two songs in. Seeing songs like “While Your Lips are Still Red” and “The Poet and the Pendulum” included in this show make it undoubtedly worth watching. The performance is vivid and full of life, the band is strong and full of love for their music and the audience, and the overall quality of the DVD is fantastic. I definitely recommend it. Though I haven’t seen the full Ratina show or the extensive extras they’ve promised to include, I will still willingly give this package a full score based on what I’ve seen already!
1. Shudder Before the Beautiful
2. Yours is an Empty Hope
5. My Walden
6. While Your Lips are Still Red
8. Weak Fantasy
9. 7 Days to the Wolves
11. The Poet and the Pendulum
13. I Want My Tears Back
15. Ghost Love Score
16. Last Ride of the Day
17. The Greatest Show on Earth (with special guest Richard Dawkins)
After the show was over, we headed to a nearby pub for a drink to wait for our interview, passing the time chatting Evo Pohjola and the other waiting media reps who proved to be excellent company. At 18:30, we headed back inside to have a chat with Floor Jansen!
Report by Bear Wiseman, photos by Jana Blomqvist