Nordic Music Central has been going for almost three months now and this is the first time I’ve mentioned Finland’s finest, Nightwish in a review proper.
That’s surprising because they have been my favourite band during the last couple of years or so. I genuinely believe they are the #1 live band anywhere, possibly the best band, period, and that they have the leading female contemporary music vocalist in the world. Floor Jansen’s range goes off the scale at both ends. The only one who could challenge her for that title is Tarja Turunen and she was Nightwish’s original singer! They don’t do anything by halves.
My list of reasons for drawing those conclusions is long but they include musical and compositional virtuosity, tightness, and innovation; at all of which they excel. And I doubt there is another band on earth that can meld metal with symphonic arrangements like Nightwish and come up with a tune every single time. But there is something else. That je ne sais quoi. That tingle you get down your spine watching and listening to a band at the absolute top of their game.
Earlier this year they played a ‘virtual’ gig, actually two of them, in a set they’d had created especially for it, the ‘Islanders Arms’. (‘The Islander’ is a song on their album ‘Dark Passion Play)’. The pub, or whatever it is supposed to be, ticks all the boxes, being ecologically powered by water and air. That’s so Nightwish.
Today I saw a video in which someone had combined the two shows into one. Needless to say it wasn’t hosted for long on YouTube, being brought down on the same day for ‘copyright breaches’. A little searching brought me to this one, which has been around since September but which doesn’t have many views. I don’t know how ‘legit’ it is. By the time you read this it might have gone, too. So, fingers crossed.
The Nightwish line-up has evolved over the 25 years of their existence so that only two of their founder members remain; keyboardist and chief writer Tuomas Holopainen and guitarist Emppu Vuorinen. The others you see here are the Dutch lady Floor Jansen, drummer Kai Hahto, who was brought in to replace the original one, Jukka Nevalainen when he retired from playing on health grounds, and Englishman Troy Donockley, who started working with the band in 2007 and subsequently became a full-time member.
Aficionados of the band will be aware that a very important early member, Marco Hietala, who parted company with Nightwish in January for reasons that I still haven’t quite been able to get my head around, isn’t here. Along with him went not only the band’s bass player but also an outstanding vocalist whose duets with all three of Nightwish’s female vocalists will live long in the memory.
His replacement here is a ‘session bassist’, actually Jukka Koskinen, who like Hahto is also a member of Finnish metal band Wintersun. I think Koskinen could possibly become a full-time member for as long as Nightwish continue, but only as a bassist. He makes no vocal contribution.
Hietala’s departure almost broke Nightwish up. But they are touring now and there will be another album, probably their last. It meant that vocal duties had to be rearranged, with even more responsibility falling on the impressive shoulders of Floor Jansen while Troy Donockley was asked to step up to the plate and sing some of Hietala’s parts; a tall order but he’s made a pretty good fist of it.
I don’t know if the shows were performed before an audience but I suspect not, which makes this video all the more remarkable. It isn’t easy to perform ‘live’, when you aren’t responding to an audience.
Consider this my Christmas present to you. The video is one and three quarter hours long and of course I recommend watching all of it. If you can’t, or just want some samples, then check out the gorgeous ballad ‘Sleeping Sun’ (based around the solar eclipse of August 1999 and which is written as a love story – “222 days of light will be desired by a night”). (56:50 on the video). Also, if you want to dance, ‘I want my tears back’ (41:45), which showcases Donockley’s skills. There’s a thumping version of ‘Storytime’ (21:19). And two of Nightwish’s three famous lengthy symphonic opuses come at the end: ‘Ghost Love Score’ (1:11:30) followed by the life-affirming ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ (1:22:05), after which the show is played out (as it is being in live shows now), by ‘Ad Astra’ from the latest album ‘Human: Nature’.
Unfortunately, the remarkable ‘Shoemaker’, which features Jansen’s staggering operatic soprano at the end, isn’t on this video. If it ever turns up, I’ll post it!
Postscript. Came across another video today, this one of the full merged shows again, and have included it below this one. The new one does have ‘Shoemaker’ on it, from 1:11:45.