It's been a little over two years since the United States last had the chance to enjoy the music of Nightwish on the concert stage but now all those who had hoped for it to happen again would get their wish as the group was armed and ready for a triumphant return with not only new material but a new lead singer as well. The blockbuster show would be at the NokiaTheatre, a perfect venue for this kind of show, and they would be supported by Paradise Lost. I had been a fan of Nightwish since around 2002 and was quite excited about this show as hey were the first band that I had ever written about. The whole experience was going to be quite the "full circle" sort of vibe when it came down to it. Friends had gathered in nearby pubs and all around the discussion was on how the group would do without Tarja fronting them. As a fan I admit that I wasnt worried at all as the new album Dark Passion Play didn't disappoint me in the least with the band sounding as vibrant as ever,only with a fresh new voice.
Paradise Lost: I only knew so much about Paradise Lost before this show and despite their being well-known eaders inthe Gothic Metal realm, they were a band that I very simply had never followed before. The Century Media Records artists had just released a new album entitled "In Reqiuem" and tonight their set would pay attention to it as well as present some of their older material. This was a smart choice for this very high profile gig, because even though they have been at this for awhile they had not yet toured this region and been able to reach this market as far as fans were concerned. The group was tight and this was to be expected and my observation found them going over well, yet despite this the audience was too charged up for Nightwish for it to have them make any great impact. I did feel that a whole new crowd was able to enjoy them tonight and perhaps will even be looking a little deeper into the music that they bring to the table going forward. Now it was time for Nightwish to hit the stage and like the two thousand plus in the Nokia Theatre joining me - I couldn't wait to see them.
Nightwish: You will find that every once in awhile when the main band is set to perform that the energy level of the room is so high that it becomes almost physical in form. Tonight would be one of those occasions and it's easy to understand why when you hear Nightwish music. It's always invigorating stuff that is well thought out and bombastic and if you had ever seen one of their Concert films you know that they also deliver this in the live sense. Nightwish would hit the ground running with the opening tune "Bye, Bye Beautiul", their own personal farewell to the former singer and a perfect hello to the new girl in town - Annette Olzon. Hi, hi, beautiful, and welcome to New York – we've been expecting you. The band would jump into "Cadence Of Her Last Breath", another new number before delivering a couple of songs that those who were existing fans would have known and this would be the test. Could Annette sing a song like "Dark Chest Of Wonders" as effectively as Tarja seemed to do? The answer would be a very quick yes and I think this surprised some people in the audience. The reasoning is very simple and that's because Annette does have a really good voice but she is not as over the top Operatic as her predecessor. An early hit single from the new album came up in "Amaranth" and this is a wonderful number live and found the audience all vibrant and excited and even singing along. Musically, Nightwish was as on fire as I had remembered them being during the times I had seen them in the past. With "Dark Passion Play" being the new release the resulting set list would include quite a bit of it as tonight's menu and I was not adverse to this at all for the album is quite good and being met with critical approval everywhere. As I watched the band bolt back and forth when it came to the way Marco and guitarist Emppu were doing their thing you could see that everyone onstage was all smiles and very happy to be back to the business at hand. Emppu rarely remains in one place during a show and his fans were at risk of getting neck strain as they tried to keep up with him. Tuomas was as dramatic as ever from his keyboards and through it all you just knew he was directing the entire evening. As the final deciding voice in the bands direction you could also tell that he seemed pleased with the selection of Ms. Olzon for the group. Driving the Nighwish engine we found that Jukka was pounding away back there on his drums and from the look of him he didn't seem to have a care in the world tonight. He's quite the solid drummer who provides a little bit of flash every so often. Marco would rock everyone on "The Islander" as it's a great chance for him to shine but the place just exploded when they did the opening tune from the new CD, "The Poet And The Pendulum". This number is clearly a winner and touches upon every feel and vibe we loved about Nightwish over the years. It is surely to become a concert favorite every time it is delivered.
The group then hit into "She Is My Sin", one of my very favorite older tunes and she did it quite commendably. Of course she didn't sound like Tarja but instead herself and I really was enjoying her own spin on it, as she kept as faithful as possible. There were no boos or hecklers yelling at the stage and this was a promising sign of her being accepted. I admit that I worried about this as outside I talked to Tarja diehards who were hoping to see her mess up, and yet inside found others who felt that some of the material was sung better by Annette based on the register she had as a singer. Either way this was an important gig for the band and they were winning over even the most reluctant of attendees. The soft ballad "Sleeping Sun" was quite the passionate number and you could have heard a pin drop during most of it and as I glanced around I noticed couples holding hands and keeping one another close during it. It was another nice sign of the effectiveness of the singers take on the track. "Nemo" was a tune where I found myself agreeing with the young lady who felt some songs better under Annette's style, and when "Eva" came up it would be the last new song for the night. The first encore was "Wishmaster" and this one had the audience as loud as the band and the fists were in the air pumping and showing horns. It's a killer live tune that I still don't grow tired of. The evening would end with "Wish I Had An Angel", a perfect duet that remains powerful and energetic from beginning to end and also a fitting closer.
I had to say there was a feeling of elation on everyone who was at this show and it was a magnificent time from the moment the group hit the stage until they finished. As a singer Annette proved she is not only worthy, but also perfect for the role. She seemed to have won over the critics this evening and for those who were fans from the moment they heard her, well those people had the chance to laugh and say "I told you so". It was great to see Nightwish back in the Big Apple after such a long absence and I am confident that they will return again and again to delight Symphonic Power Metal fans everywhere. Make sure to pick up a copy of "Dark Passion Play" and remember there is a special edition as well that has a couple of different things on it.
1. Bye, Bye Beautiful
2. Cadence Of Her Last Breath
3. Dark Chest Of Wonders
4. Ever Dream
6. The Islander
7. The Poet And The Pendulum
8. She Is My Sin
10. Whoever Brings The Night
11. Sleeping Sun
12. Slaying The Dreamer
15. Wishmaster – encore
16. Wish I Had An Angel - encore
Official Web site: www.nightwish.com
Official Web site: www.paradiselost.com