If you aren’t familiar with the good NIGHTWISH name at this point, shame on you. These guys are one of (if not the) biggest Finnish music export around the world and for good reason. Since 2017 was their rest year, 2018 was largely dedicated to the Decades Tour, a best-of live set that has seen a fair bit of the world, but has yet to pass through their home country. As such, Musicalypse decided to go and check it out on July 21st, 2018, at Mukkula (now known as the Lahti Energia Tapahtumapuisto [Lahti Energy Eventpark]).
I wasn’t initially planning to go to this show, even though I know from the Ratina Stadion show that NIGHTWISH is at their prime outdoors in the summer. Since they’re playing in Jäähalli later this year, it seemed a bit redundant to try and go to Lahti since no one wanted to go with me, a car wasn’t a possibility, and transit tends not to go late enough to get gig-goers home. However, on Friday night before the show, one friend made a snap decision to go, so we piled into his car and made our way to Lahti.
The first thing of note was that I was not very pleased with the venue overall, and I’d be interested to know why Lahti was chosen for this show, of all places. It’s not abnormal for there to be a bit of a walk to the venue for one-off shows, but along the way, even once inside, there seemed to be no toilets anywhere. When we finally found them, tucked away behind the bar area, they were the worst sort of toilets. Some were already full before NIGHTWISH had even started, there was no hand sanitizer, and the doors wouldn’t shut or lock in most of the stalls, so you ran the risk of intrusion at all times.
As well, the venue was too long and narrow, so unless you really stayed at the back near the entrance in the elevated grassy places, you didn’t have a good change of seeing the stage at all (thank goodness for screens). The food area was right down the side of the standing space, so in the middle of gorgeous songs, you might get wafting smells of greasy food that, frankly, at least once or twice kind of killed my good vibe. And lastly, the sound quality at this place simply was not very good overall, mainly because it was just too quiet. Enough with the complaining though – let’s focus on the good!
The opening acts for this event were BEAST IN BLACK and TIMO RAUTIAINEN & TRIO NISKALAUKAUS, one of whom I saw already and Rockfest, and the other at Tuska 2017. While we would’ve liked to see BEAST IN BLACK again, we all had work earlier in the day that prevented us from showing up earlier, so we only arrived at the venue 15-20 minutes before NIGHTWISH were set to take the stage.
One really great and pleasing thing about this show was the variety of people and the joy they were showing. There were 60+ aged people with huge grins, disabled kids screaming and jumping with joy, and small children sitting on their parents’ shoulders, flailing their arms around to the music. And that’s not even including the average metalhead. This was an all-age, all-gender, all-denomination crowd of people who just love NIGHTWISH and it was wonderful to see.
The show started with a recorded voice speaking nostalgically about the times before internet and smart phones, when no one knew the setlist beforehand, and no one saw bad-quality videos on YouTube that get watched once or twice and then forgotten to the ages. It then politely asked people to put away their phones and live in the moment for an hour or two. I found it ironic, and truth be told, kind of annoying that people were recording this with their phones, as such. I personally only took one photo that night with my phone, and that was of the lovely sunset behind the stage.
The “Swanheart” intro, performed by Troy Donockley, played first, and some brilliant fireballs kicked things off officially; the first song of the night was “End of All Hope” from 2002’s “Century Child.” Vocalist Floor Jansen looked like she was channeling her inner Rob Halford in a very pretty black studded outfit, and everyone was looking on-point right from the get-go. The end of the song was also emphasized with some sparking explosions.
The setlist was exactly what you’ll find on their remastered “Decades” album (plus a few well-picked extras), which was released earlier this year. It was a glorious 20-song set with songs you’d never expect to hear normally at a NIGHTWISH show. A few tracks that really got me excited were “10th Man Down,” “Elvenpath,” and “The Carpenter” – all songs I never thought I’d hear them play live. “10th Man,” for example, was from the 2001 EP, Over the Hills and Far Away, and as a rule I never old my breath for EP tracks. “Elvenpath” and “The Carpenter” are both from their first album and have been completely reworked to both sound better and include and optimize the new members, namely Jansen and Donockley – at the halfway point during the set, Marco Hietala (bass) actually began shredding on his double-necked guitar/bass, and a lively Irish jig (a traditional cover affectionately entitled “Elvenjig”) opened up “Elvenpath.”
Sadly, much of the joy of the night was diminished by the sound. We were standing not far back and to the side of the sound booth – a traditionally safe space to stand sound-wise – yet on a calm, windless night, we still struggled to hear the whole band throughout the night. We weren’t sure if they were keeping it soft because they had been selling childrens’ tickets, or if Lahti simply didn’t allow louder music than what we got, but it was a constant bummer. Take “The Carpenter” for example. Jansen and Donockley, the latter of whom was doing vocals (Tuomas Holopainen had sang this song on the first album and rumor has it that he never liked those vocals), had clearly worked very hard to get the harmonization just right… and yet, with the sound quality, one was always a bit louder than the other, or they’d both fade to be too quiet, or then overpower the instruments altogether – it was all over the place. I didn’t even need earplugs, something I am usually very diligent about.
To our positive surprise, however, there were a few guests at the show – Tapio Wilska, the guest growler from their earlier albums, came out to sing in “10th Man Down” and “Devil & the Deep Dark Ocean”; even more surprisingly, ex-TURISAS accordionist Netta Skog appeared during “Wishmaster.” I always enjoy the rare moments when Papa Wilska returns to the stage – I last saw him at a FINNTROLL anniversary show a few years back. As for “Wishmaster,” it was great to hear it again after a long break from their sets, and the accordion was an interesting new addition to the classic. That said, as nice as it was to hear a different take on the song, I think the accordion made it sound a bit too much like a pirate shanty and didn’t suit the style overall – a nice one-time change but not something I’d look forward to seeing in the future. Accordion is a tricky instrument that way. Skog performed very well though and was full of smiles, as per usual.
It was also really exciting to hear some of the ways they’ve integrated Donockley into the older songs. Along with singing on “The Carpenter,” he played a beautiful flute intro to “Come Cover Me,” and did a flute solo as well in “Gethsemane.” Mostly Donockley was on second guitars alongside Emppu Vuorinen, but every now and then he’d whip out a semi-acoustic mandolin, such as in “Dead Boy’s Poem.” That song, by the way, was beautiful and done up to be far more interesting than its original incarnation with these nice little additions.
The show also made ample use of pyrotechnics. There weren’t many songs that didn’t at least get some fireballs or sparks. When Jansen greeted the crowd after a few songs, she mentioned that it was crazy hot on stage with the warm Finnish summer nights combined with the fireballs.
Speaking of Jansen, Tarja Turunen-enthusiasts might not like hearing me repeatedly saying that Floor Jansen is the best thing to happen to NIGHTWISH. At least in a live setting, I just love everything she does. It doesn’t mean that the songs don’t necessarily lose a little something here and there. Jansen isn’t a purely opera singer, so the best operatic songs have been mellowed out a bit. But with that in mind, Jansen is such a wonderful, stylish vocalist who is amazing at everything she does. “Gethsemane” had deeper high notes than Turunen would’ve done – it’s different but not worse by any means. I just can’t get behind the ex-fans who won’t listen to NIGHTWISH without Turunen. You are missing out!
They didn’t play too many “modern” songs, but included “Élan” and “Greatest Show on Earth” of course. I’ve always liked “Élan” but I also think it’s far from the best song from “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” (2015) – “Alpenglow” for example is always a winner. Mid-era classics like “I Wish I Had an Angel” and “Nemo” were purely gorgeous new-era versions of their old selves, and I am never sorry to hear them included in a set.
The show then began to wind down with “Greatest Show on Earth” – a bit of a surprise choice as the penultimate song, as usually people start to leave during that song because it’s the finalé. However, they managed to keep people’s attention the entire time by almost constantly shooting fireworks. It was awesome. At Ratina, they only did a big fireworks show at the end of the full song when the band had finished. In this shorter version, they started firing off every other minute or so, and it was great! In actuality, the set ended with “Ghost Love Score,” which I am rather conflicted about these days. That was my favorite NIGHTWISH song for probably 10 years after “Once” came out in 2004, but it’s so very long and they’ve been playing it at every show in recent years, that I’d really just like them to swap it out for something else. Can’t we hear “Beauty of the Beast” for example? Either way, none of that stops it from being an absolutely brilliant composition that was wonderfully executed, so I can’t complain too much. The final instrumental parts of “Greatest Show on Earth” acted as the outro, and the masses began to file out of the venue during these last two songs.
So what’s the best part of a NIGHTWISH gig where they play perfectly, improve on everything they’ve done, and pick a fantastic setlist? How about the band’s easy interaction, huge grins, and amazing chemistry? Even with the poor venue and quiet sound, this was a great experience and after being a part of it, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll find me at the show in Jäähalli again later. Again, as always, I do recommend that you see NIGHTWISH at least once, and even better, try and see them outside if you can!
1. End of All Hope
2. Wish I Had an Angel
3. 10th Man Down (ft. Tapio Wilska)
4. Come Cover Me
7. Sacrament of Wilderness
8. Deep Silent Complete
9. Dead Boy’s Poem
10. Elvenjig (traditional)
12. I Want My Tears Back
13. Wishmaster (ft. Netta Skog)
14. The Carpenter
15. The Kinslayer
16. Devil & the Deep Dark Ocean (ft. Tapio Wilska)
18. Slaying the Dreamer
19. Greatest Show on Earth (chapter I-III)
20. Ghost Love Score
Outro: Greatest Show on Earth (chapter IV-V)
Written by Bear Wiseman