Review and Photography by: Graham Hilling
Walking down Olympic Way in Wembley to the arena, there’s a sizeable crew of metalheads in tow and on arriving well in advance of any performances there’s already a very large queue outside the venue. Good job arriving early too since the security at the arena is very strict and this means that getting in can be a slow old process.
Once inside there is a real buzz in the air, an air of expectation for sure. Just two bands on the bill for tonight, Nightwish themselves and support from Beast in Black.
Now, Beast in Black are a real metal band like I remember from years ago. They have great songs, blistering dual guitar solos, sung vocals(!), synchronised headbanging and a stage presence to match all of this. Looking remarkably comfortable on the expansive arena stage, there is no doubt these guys are a worthy support for this evening.
And above all, they look like they are enjoying every second of being on the stage! The drumming of Atte Palokangas is particularly impressive, powering the band along with an almost unnatural force! At one point he continues thumping the bass drums at the end of the song to be told by vocalist Yannis Papadopoulos, “Hey, we’ve finished!”. He then comments, “He has beer, he is happy!”, to which Palokangas just grins away!
Papadopoulos’ vocals are old school, occasionally high pitched and sung. An impressive range compliments the music perfectly. And the music is power metal personified. The solos of Kabanen and Heikkinen are layered very nicely on top of the powerhouse rhythm section.
They bash through a solid set comprised of songs from their debut album, ‘Berserker’, which showcases the versatility of the band from out and out metal to slow ballads (“Ghost in the Rain”, which sees the audience holding their mobiles and lighters aloft). The keyboard elements are on playback (as far as I can tell) with live guitars, drums and vocals; it’s a shame they don’t have a keys player for the live performance, as the keys do make up an important part of their sound. I’m sure most of the punters would be none the wiser, mind!
Talking of audience reaction, pretty impressive! Especially given that most will have undoubtedly come to see Nightwish. Standout songs are “Crazy, Mad, Insane”, which really rocks along, and “Blind and Frozen”, which really showcases Papadopoulos’ vocal ability to the max. “End of the World” closes the set, managing to be heavy and accessible at the same time. Beast in Black leave the stage, job complete, audience suitably warmed up!!
Beast in Black
Blood of a Lion
The Fifth Angel
Ghost in the Rain
Crazy, Mad, Insane
Blind and Frozen
End of the World
So, there is a 30 minute pause while the stage is made ready, pyrotechnics are checked and re-checked, and the sound is tweaked to perfection, and then Nightwish emerge onto the stage. Pyros and flames galore and the set is accompanied by a fantastic animated backdrop that is constantly changing and customised for each song. If you stand looking at the stage centrally, it looks like the drum and keyboard risers are hovering in mid air.
This tour, the Decades World Tour, is in support of the Decades compilation album, spanning the whole Nightwish history. Starting off with “Dark Chest of Wonders” from 2004 is a surprising opener because it isn’t actually on the Decades album, however it’s a good choice, just the right balance of heavy with symphonic stabs and musical sensibility.
Right from the get go, the whole show is visually stunning: flames, fireworks, lush backgrounds, and the sound itself is also up to scratch. There are two massive screens each side of the stage providing great closeups of the activity on the stage too, perfect for those at the back of the vast auditorium.
“Wish I Had an Angel” follows in the same vein, mixing a good solid musical backdrop for the angelic vocals of Floor Jansen. As you’d expect, the whole band are squeaky tight and don’t put a foot wrong all evening.
Despite the fact that many of the earlier songs were originally sung in a very operatic manner by Tarja Turunen, Floor manages to put her own twist on the vocals and wins every time. Tuomas Holopainen’s keys lift the overall sound and the guitar of Emppu Vuorinen cuts beautifully, adding just the edge the music needs. Marko Hietala’s bass rumbles away, and while Troy Donockley is confined to a riser at the rear of the stage, it can’t be denied that the inclusion of a variety of exotic wind instruments adds a certain something that characterises the Nightwish sound perfectly.
The set progresses with the crowd lapping it all up. The arena isn’t 100% full, but there certainly aren’t masses of empty seats and the standing crowd is also fairly well packed in. Troy comments, “How are you enjoying the time machine?”, referring to the choice of older songs. Then he can’t resist a, “Hello Wembley!”. Clearly the man’s humour is coming to the fore when he says, “It’s good to be back in the land of real ale and crumpets!”. Made me smile anyway!
“I Want My Tears Back” and “Last Ride of the Day” both have the crowd nodding away with some impressive backdrop work too. Introduced as “….a song about woodwork!”, “The Carpenter” slows things down.
“The Devil and the Deep, Dark Ocean” gives Kai Hahto an opportunity to show some impressive double bass drum work, and “Slaying the Dreamer”, with its punctuated chorus and great breakdown, brings the set to a close and the band leave the stage to rapturous applause.
They’re only away from the stage briefly, however, before Tuomas Holopainens returns to play the opening chords of “The Greatest Show on Earth (chapter 1)”. This song really showcases the band at their best: fantastic songwriting and musicianship with Holopainen and Donockley creating a fitting conclusion to the show with Jansen’s vocals just perfection itself.
Finishing the show with “The Greatest Show on Earth (chapter 4)” leaves everyone with some thoughts to take home, and then the show is over. A show filled with everything you could have wanted, fantastic performance and great visuals. This is a band at the peak of their career for sure. No complaints from me.
Dark Chest of Wonders
Wish I Had an Angel
10th Man Down
Come Cover Me
ÉlanSacrament of Wilderness
Dead Boy’s Poem
I Want My Tears Back
Last Ride of the Day
Devil & the Deep Dark Ocean
Slaying the Dreamer
The Greatest Show on Earth (chapter 1)
Ghost Love Score
The Greatest Show on Earth (chapter 4)