24.4.2022 Lähiöbotox & Nightwish @ Jäähalli, Helsinki

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If you’ve been hoping to see NIGHTWISH live over the past few years, you’ve surely been sorely disappointed due to constant cancellations and rescheduling caused by the global coronavirus pandemic. As the world slowly goes back to normal, it was finally time for these guys to hit the stage once more. With the strange choice of LÄHIÖBOTOX as opener, the two local bands took over the Helsinki Ice Hall at long last on April 24th, 2022.

While at first glance LÄHIÖBOTOX might seem like an odd choice for an opener for NIGHTWISH, we think this pairing happened because, not only are these guys extremely up-and-coming and talented at what they do, we’re dealing with extreme circumstances where we have an audience that hasn’t been to too many shows over the past few years and the rap-metal act is precisely what the shy audience needed for warming up. LÄHIÖBOTOX is one of Finland’s biggest hidden gems with a whole lot of dynamic force and it doesn’t really matter were you see them – the first time we ever saw this band was at Henry’s Pub, one of the smallest venues for bands – these guys were born to perform on a stage and to entertain. The huge stage of the Helsinki Ice Hall never felt too big, they truly dominated the stage with their energy, jumped from left to right, and slowly but surely won over the hearts of the audience. Be sure to check out their new album, “Itä-Metal.”

If you, like me, have seen NIGHTWISH many, many times, it may feel like there’s not a lot new to expect from the band on stage. However, the main difference between the current now-and-then of the band is the continued absence of Marko Hietala on bass and vocals. If you were able to catch the band’s big livestream last year, you were able to see what it’s like, with Jukka Koskinen (ex-NORTHER, WINTERSUN) as acting bassist; you may have seen that things weren’t quite the same, yet nor were they terrible. On this night, we wanted to see face-to-face how things were without such an iconic element.

The show started with a little bang and some light pyros, as well as a surprisingly drum-heavy intro, courtesy of Kai Hahto, before kicking everything off with “Noise.” The stage felt a bit big for their particular brand of energy, especially considering that the setting was far more stripped down than in the past, without massive decorations all over, but instead using light strips and a bigass screen, as well as a riser for Tuomas Holopainen, Kai Hahto, and Troy Donockley. It was a bit surprising that they didn’t use the music video during the song, but that’s hardly a complaint, as it seemed they had entirely original visuals for the whole show.

The opening notes to “Planet Hell” began as Floor Jansen greeted the crowd and blasts of fire lit up the arena. This was a fair bit more exciting than the smoke blasts and sparks from “Noise.” The song choice was interesting, as Floor covered Marko‘s parts – she did a nice job but the trade-off of soprano and harshness was not quite captured by a single singer. Also of note, Troy was simply not present for this track, which made the stage feel very empty, despite the vastness of sound. Luckily for everyone, Troy returned with the Uilleann pipes for another new track, “Tribal,” which was really great live with its grunting and the skeletons dancing on the screen behind them.

Going back to the previous album, “Elán” was light enough to allow a little break from the intensity, though the crowd were more than happy to have their arms up and clapping throughout. The band seemed bent on playing a bit of everything, as they then stepped into their second era for “Storytime.” Jukka Koskinen, the current session bassist, isn’t a big mover on stage, but he was notably bobbing his head around wildly for this one – looks like he was having fun and he’s loosened up since the streams. It’s also always exciting to hear Floor sing the high notes that used to only play from the backing track. They then blasted even further back to the past for “She is My Sin,” which had great galactic visuals on the screen and every hand back up in the air. While Floor doesn’t always have the gentleness for Anette‘s material, her strong take on Tarja‘s songs often work for me even better than the originals, and this was no exception – they rocked it magnificently and Floor‘s power was perfect.

As the percussive drums started, the hype for “Harvest” became real. Floor took a seat so she could relax with backing vocals and let Troy have the spotlight for a while, eventually bowing off stage completely as Troy and Emppu Vuorinen started to shred together. “7 Days to the Wolves” was announced as one of Floor‘s favorites and was dressed up with some nice mandolin work from Troy. Floor‘s power also helped push this track to another level live, even if she drops an octave for the wails in the first notes of the chorus. With no interest in slowing down, the pyro blasts came back for “Dark Chest of Wonders,” another personal highlight for its phenomenal energy.

“I Want My Tears Back” is always a nice choice, largely due to Troy‘s awesome use of the pipes, and the crowd responded in a like mind, with all their hands up in the air once again. While Troy doesn’t share the sharpness of voice that Marko had, this song actually still works with a softer voice. Floor did some nice dancing around during Troy‘s soloing as well – impressive that she had the energy considering word around the venue was that she had the flu. This was followed by “Ever Dream,” which covered yet another older album. Floor‘s lower notes at times add a little depth to the original soprano sound, which makes for a very enjoyable feel, especially considering she still hits all the high notes like a wizard.

Troy then made a dad joke about “Funland” and then introduced an old song that may be older than many audience members: “Nemo”… c’mon, we’re not that young and “Once” isn’t that old! With fog blasts to add to the drama, this was another great single to bring back. Floor then went up to the riser to sit with Troy and asked, “How’s the Heart?” They really made her work on the album for those vocal melodies and she pulled them off with surprising delicacy live. Many people had their cell phone lights out for this one, making a lovely effect all around the venue. Jukka and Tuomas joined in after a while with Kai, making a rather magical moment, especially with the stage lighting. Once the song ended, Floor brought out the gold and platinum records for Human. :||: Nature.,” which they received backstage before the show, and thanked the crowd for making it possible. Naturally they followed this with another song from the album, “Shoemaker,” which was a far more dramatic song live, with very mild smoke, moon and night sky visuals, and dramatic lighting. Troy and Floor‘s harmonization was further something delightful and Floor‘s classical moment at the end was breathtaking.

“Last Ride of the Day” signaled that the night was winding down, but they surely wouldn’t go out quietly, bringing all the fire blasts they could. The band kept some long tracks in, and while I wish they would’ve gone with the lesser-heard “The Poet and the Pendulum,” or even better, “Song of Myself,” they stuck with the new and seemingly live-mandatory “Ghost Love Score.” In the past I’ve been rather sick of this one live, but after a several-year break, it was great to hear it again. Dramatic fire and every fist in the venue made for an even more powerful performance. What an ending!

The set was so long, we wondered if there would be an encore, and were quite surprised to hear them fire up “The Greatest Show on Earth,” and from the long beginning no less. Confusingly, while it was mostly Tuomas taking care of the music, we wondered why the spotlight was shining next to him, leaving him in the dark. The long finale acted in place of an encore, which was either a big win or a big question mark, depending on whether or not you like the track. It did boast some notable videos, and not just of turtles – they did a short tribute to the Ukraine, as well as the late Alexi Laiho.

This was an interesting return show to the stadiums. On one hand, the music was fantastic, the sound quality was excellent, and we had nearly no complaints about the setlist beyond a negligible desire to have heard “Alpenglow.” That said, the energy wasn’t quite big enough for the stage, or perhaps the flu and other things held them back a bit. One way or the other, we spent a good night listening to amazing music performed beautifully, and that’s nothing to turn one’s nose up at!

Photos & LB text by Laureline Tilkin

Setlist

  1. Noise
  2. Planet Hell
  3. Tribal
  4. Elán
  5. Storytime
  6. She is My Sin
  7. Harvest
  8. 7 Days to the Wolves
  9. Dark Chest of Wonders
  10. I Want My Tears Back
  11. Everdream
  12. Nemo
  13. How’s the Heart
  14. Shoemaker
  15. Last Ride of the Day
  16. Ghost Love Score
  17. The Greatest Show on Earth