Nightwish

Enmore Theatre, Enmore NSW
January 9, 2016

As a venue, the Enmore Theatre is always good for a rock show as it has a suitable atmosphere and a legacy to go with it. Tonight’s show was the third time Finland’s Nightwish had appeared here and the second with current singer Floor Jensen. Prior to the headline act delivering a cracking show, Tasmanian band Taberah had the task of warming up the growing crowd filling up the venue. Opening their support slot set with a ludicrous re-interpretation of Churchill’s speech about never giving up, which Iron Maiden so deftly employ at their live shows, Taberah’s imitation version set it up as an ode to drinking activities. Obligatory bombast thus welcomed in the Tasmanian twin guitar four piece band.

Launching into the title track from Necromancer, it was power metal vibes galore as left-handed guitar-toting front man Jono Barwick soon competed with lead guitarist Myles Flood [aka “Flash”] for both solo sections and rock guitar poses whilst letting rip on well-rehearsed harmony lines. It was pretty cheesy initially but their harder image with a thrash appreciation vibe helped pull them out of 1985. Stage banter was confident, anecdotal and suitably juvenile. Thus, the faster song, ‘The Hammer of Hades’ was  dedicated to the mighty Lemmy Kilmister who reportedly chose Taberah as the support act when Motörhead played Luna Park in 2011.

Borrowing heavily from Iron Maiden’s Blaze Bailey era, ‘Burning in the Moonlight’ was trotted out, pushing the envelope for opening riff plagiarism. A swift, nifty guitar solo followed by harmony guitar lines saved the day yet reinforced the established band similarities, as did the next track. Things got progressively heavier though as early Metallica-influenced track ‘Crypt’ delved into half time rhythms with cymbal crashes from drummer Tom Brockman as David “Doc” Walsh kept the rhythm intact. ‘Requiem of the Damned’ from The Light of Which I Dream kept the pace moving along at a frenetic pace with a nod to Black Sabbath in a rendition of the classic song ‘War Pigs’ before returning back into their own tune with a guitar soloing interlude. Closing their set with dynamic of ‘The Light of Which I Dream’, Taberah provided a decent and entertaining opening set.

As the headliner’s stage set was finalised, The Cult’s ‘Fire Woman’ played over the PA, setting the rock mood. Lights lowered and the musical introduction kicked off to loud applause. Using an epic production complete with a wide array of lighting effects, artistic backdrops, well positioned band members and a full sound, Nightwish were in fine form from the very first song. ‘Shudder Before the Beautiful’ from latest album Endless Forms Most Beautiful opened the show performance wise and saw keyboardist and all round band leader Tuomas Holopainen trading solos with guitarist Emppu Vuorinen. Singer Floor Jansen was in her element, feeding off the crowd’s energy as touring drummer Kai Hahto kept things in time. As always, bassist Marco Hietala added a strong backing vocal to Floor’s singing whilst also effortlessly keeping the bass line hammering along in time. The contrast of keyboard bombast and grittier distorted guitar riffs was off and racing with second track ‘Yours is An Empty Hope’ which also included a somewhat twisted chorus, musically speaking. The intense arrangements and orchestrations usually reserved for recorded material was evident in their live sound.

The initially gentle ‘Ever Dream’ from Century Child showed how apt Jansen is at tackling the older material that former original Nightwish soprano vocalist Tarja Turunen delivered many years ago when the band was really starting to become an international sensation. Floor’s skills were further reinforced as the band delved back to the Wishmaster album to perform ‘She is My Sin’. Majestic in delivery and enhanced with another flashy yet efficient solo from the ever smiling Emppu, it was a gig highlight for the die-hard, old school fans of the band, complete with the rising key change for operatic gravitas.

More material from the latest album was introduced by wind instrument player Troy Donockley who added the exotic sonic flavours of uilleann pipes and tin whistle to the Celtic ‘My Walden’. Marco, with his impressive double neck instrument that combined a bass guitar and a standard guitar, introduced ‘While Your Lips Are Still Red’. The song is an unofficial Nightwish track from the Dark Passion Play era which opened with a piano figure and segued poetically into the latest album’s big single ‘Élan’ whereby Floor was again captivating in performing the climactic pop song that worked brilliantly live. It was followed by ‘Weak Fantasy’ which was slightly marred by the borderline pretentious, albeit informative, narration of celebrated biologist Richard Dawkins. By this point it was clear that the choreographed stage movements were exceptionally well rehearsed as band members offering embellishments deftly appeared according to instrumentation demands of the song. In other words, no one was standing about idly whilst the core members performed the songs.

Next up, ‘Seven Days to the Wolves’ from Dark Passion Play was executed with precision and hypnotic aggression. In this case, Jansen also demonstrated her ability to deliver the vocals of previous Nightwish singer Anette Olzon alongside the usual intensity from Marco. Of course, the successful Imaginaerum album was catered for with the floating melodicism and contained dread of ‘Storytime’ before ‘I Want My Tears Back’ from the same album had the crowd singing along with Marco and Floor leading a band at the height of their powers as they managed crowd interaction into a memorable live  experience. Throughout, Emppu kept the rhythms chugging along with sustained power chords and muted rhythm figures.

Covering a vast back catalogue continued as it was time for an epic classic of ‘Nemo’ from Once whereby Jansen made it work with her brand of confident vocal power that was only previously witnessed when Turinen performed it at the Metro Theatre over a decade ago. Meanwhile, Emppu dropped yet another feisty, tasty solo whilst casually flipping his hair back out of his face on completion. Harking right back to the Oceanborn album from 1998, ‘Stargazers’ still sounded fresher than its vintage given the crowd interaction techniques used to usher in the very neo classical sounding track. ‘Ghost Love Score’, another track from Once, snuck its way into the set, sung with great stage presence and perfect pitch for stellar high notes without losing any power. At ten minutes long and with the full band line up bolstered by hard drive production assistance, it was quite climactic, especially with the haunting, driving outro.

Some punters might have also wanted to hear more songs from Once and similarly from Dark Passion Play but this tour was unapologetically in support of Endless Forms Most Beautiful and in epic scope; the reinvigoration of the band was clear. ‘Last Ride of the Day’ from Imaginaerum took the audience towards the end of set, singing along in enthusiastic unison with a little bit of shred guitar sprinklings from Emppu. Closing off the set, a majority of tracks from the five part opus that is ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ were offered up. The dark, heavier aspects of verses melded into melodic, soaring choruses. Interplay with more Gothic tinges contrasted the power metal delivery which kept things interesting and added the vital ingredient of dynamics to the simply epic piece. Job done, the performance segued into more pre-recorded Richard Dawkins narration over the PA as the band bowed and eventually vacated the stage. Nightwish put on a sensational, epic, artistically engaging, swiftly delivered and virtually flawless live performance. A strong contender for gig of the year.

Roll Tide
Shudder Before the Beautiful
Yours Is an Empty Hope
Ever Dream
She Is My Sin
My Walden
While Your Lips Are Still Red
Élan
Weak Fantasy
Seven Days to the Wolves
Storytime
I Want My Tears Back
Nemo
Stargazers
Ghost Love Score
Last Ride of the Day
The Greatest Show on Earth (Chapter II: Life, Chapter III: The Toolmaker)
The Greatest Show on Earth (Chapter IV: The Understanding)