Date: March 10, 2017
Review by Torbjørn ‘Toby’ Jørstad
Photography by Adrienn Pucher
The graciously beautiful Koko in London was the place hosting a performer of the same qualities last Friday. Two days following the International Women’s Day, Finnish operatic metal singer Tarja Turunen brought along her band for what was promised to be a magnificent evening on her Shadow Shows 2017 tour. Luxembourgish rockers My Own Ghost provided support, and as the doors opened at 18:30, a long queue of dedicated fans eagerly entered the venue.
With a curfew more than an hour earlier than normally in London, not long passed before My Own Ghost took the stage.
Discreetly entering at 18:50, the five-piece kick off their set to a venue not even quarter full. Vocalist Julie Rodesch strides onto the stage, as the band tears into “Footprints In The Sand”, what’s most likely a song off their upcoming sophomore effort Life on Standby, to be released on April 7.
Their radio friendly pop-influenced rock/metal seems to be just in line with the theme of the night, with several crowd members seemingly enjoying what’s on display.
It’s a shame then really, that their set is largely ruined by absolutely horrible sound mixing, leaving their performance appear as nothing but a muddy, distorted mess. It truly feels like a live projection of Metallica’s over-compressed Death Magnetic record sound-wise.
The vocals are way too loud, appearing almost screeching, and the guitars sound nasal and fail to break through the massive wall of sound, leaving what seems to be technically good solos barely audible. Their short set is neatly paced, and appears like a crossover of modern Nightwish and the more radio friendly Beyond the Black.
Putting this aside, the Luxembourgers still put on a good show, hardly anything breath-taking, but perfectly in line with the upcoming headliner. The band expresses their gratitude for the opportunity to support Tarja, saying she’s “a very beautiful woman.”
Their final song “Intoxicated” speeds up, culminating in a rather enjoyable séance of double bass drumming and (apparent) pre-recorded vocal harmonies.
As the band thanks us all and leaves the stage minutes later, a few members of the audience seem to have already taken in the message of their last song.
1. Footprints In The Sand
2. Waiting In The Wings
3. Crystal Ball
4. Beautiful Mistake
5. Life on Standby
6. Don’t Say You Love Me
The anticipation is strong, and the electric atmosphere in the crowd can almost be felt during the changeover ahead of the night’s headliner. The lights go out a little before 20:00, and the crowd erupts into cheering as a soothing piano track sounds over the PA. A silhouette of Tarja, as seen on the cover of last years The Shadow Self, makes up the backdrop. Shortly after, three bald musicians, Christian Kretschmar on keyboards, Max Lilja on cello, and Timm Schreiner on drums, take place by their respective instruments in the back.
Guitarist Alex Scholpp and bassist Kevin Chown follows, before the goddess herself embraces the crowd with her presence.
The initial crowd reaction is good as the band tears through “Demons in You” and “500 Letters”, and the ground floor is at this point naturally packed.
Turunen shows a good connection with the crowd, clearly having fun on stage, while also seeming slightly overwhelmed by the massive response she gets as she smilingly hops around the stage, waving to those up on the balconies.
The focus of the night is naturally on The Shadow Self, and Turunen manages to fit nine of the album’s 11 songs in the setlist.
Her set contains a pleasant mix of power ballads and slow songs, although some are straight up heavy numbers. “No Bitter End” kicks off with a riff as taken straight out of Emppu Vuorinen’s repertoire, while “Lucid Dreamer” has a strong soundtrack-feel to it.
It’s clear that in her 20 years as a singer, Turunen’s voice has not deteriorated much at all, at least not to the point where it’s noticeable live. Luckily, the sound is mixed much better than previously that night, and all instruments are clearly audible together with Turunen’s voice.
Turunen surrounds herself by a skilled set of musicians, and generously gives them their own time in the spotlight. The woman of the evening leaves the stage, and we’re given an instrumental exhibition from the remaining musicians.
Although I can honestly say that a bass and drum solo isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, Lilja’s cello solo is something different, and adds some colour and volume to what could have otherwise been repetitive and dull.
The three string musicians teaming up in front of the stage at the end was also quite enjoyable, in fact both rather impressive and entertaining.
Although it has been almost 12 years, there’s no denying that Turunen will always be remembered as “the former Nightwish vocalist”, no matter how successful her solo material becomes. Since then, her style both in terms of stage presence and vocal display marks a clear departure from her former band, perhaps driven by a desire to not merely become an imitator of today’s biggest symphonic metal band.
It’s only fitting that she acknowledges her time with them, and so a medley consisting of rarely-played Nightwish songs from their first four albums are a welcomed addition to the setlist. The intro to “Tutankhamen” from Angels Fall First is quickly followed by “Ever Dream”, before transitioning into “The Riddler” and back to “Ever Dream” again. “Slaying the Dreamer” rounds off the arguably most well-received segment of her set, if one is to judge by the reaction of those around me.
It might seem unfair to judge her in the light of her time in Nightwish, but it becomes impossible to not comment on the vast difference from watching live recordings of her performing with Nightwish, in comparison to Friday’s show.
As mentioned, her solo material is of a completely different calibre than her work with Nightwish, and so the music itself shall not receive much objective complaints. It’s the way she acts on stage that is somewhat off putting, and while watching Turunen jump around on stage making funny faces pretending to be some badass rock singer, I’m left wondering what happened to the sensual, emotive creature that once fronted one of my favourite bands.
An intimate acoustic medley session slows the tempo down again, as the band sits down at the front of the stage. “I Walk Alone” does in fact work quite well with an acoustic cloak. The normal set continues with “Love to Hate”, in which Turunen exclaims “that song takes me somewhere else” after finishing. The drum intro to “Victim of Ritual” sparks enthusiastic cheers from the crowd, who also eagerly sings along to the chorus of what was arguably the best received performance of her solo-songs.
The band leaves the stage and comes back shortly after for the inevitable encores. “Innocence” and “Undertaker” becomes the last two songs from The Shadow Self, before Turunen declares “it’s party time!” as their set is rounded off with “Until My Last Breath”. Although not personally very impressed with the show, the fans in the crowd were obviously happy as the band leaves the stage, with Tarja staying for a few moments to take in the appreciation showered onto her from the audience.
1. Demons in You
2. 500 Letters
3. No Bitter End
4. Lucid Dreamer
5. Eagle Eye
6. Calling From the Wild
7. Supremacy (Muse cover)
8. Tutankhamen/Ever Dream/The Riddler/Slaying the Dreamer (Nightwish medley)
9. Until Silence/The Reign/Mystique Voyage/House of Wax/I Walk Alone (Acoustic medley)
10. Love to Hate
11. Victim of Ritual
13. Too Many
15. Die Alive
16. Until My Last Breath
My Own Ghost