LIVE REVIEW: Nightwish @ Arena, Manchester – 11th December 2018

Following their year-long break in 2017, Finnish symphonic metal giants Nightwish have returned celebrating their previous albums with their Decades World Tour. With people of all ages and backgrounds flowing into Manchester Arena, this is going to be a very inclusive gig. Nightwish’s sound encompasses heavy metal guitars and dramatic bass contrasted with operatic female vocals, floating piano melodies and traditional folk instruments. This eclectic mix creates a theatrical and atmospheric sound with a very wide appeal. With support from Beast In Black, this makes for a great evening of powerful vocals, melodic riffs and enchanting tones.

The support act, Beast In Black (8), sets the tone of the evening with melodic guitars, powerful vocals and energetic synths. Their set begins with a power metal focus. Yannis Papadopoulos’s lead vocals soar reaching an incredible range of high and low notes. The strong vibrato is dynamic and enhances the instrumentation. The powerful metal sound is visually complemented with Beast In Black’s stage wear. Long, leather coats, chains and gothic military style vests create a fitting image and attractive spectacle. As the set progresses, synths are introduced to their tracks. This steers their sound in a different direction, but it still clearly Beast In Black’s sound. Crazy, Mad, Insane in particular brings a new level of energy to their performance with fast, catchy synth riffs, and bouncing rhythms. Combing dystopian, futuristic and gothic imagery and yet creating something reminiscent of a dark Spinal Tap. They are not afraid to include humour with rehearsed guitar swaying routines and synchronised headbanging – their set sees smiles all round. Their second album is due to be released in early 2019, however, they refrained from performing their latest single as part of the set. This appears somewhat surprising as this would have been an opportunity for them to engage further with new fans.

Nightwish (9) enter the stage in a theatrical manner. With the theme of the Decades Tour involving reliving the previous albums the stage effects were designed in the style of a time machine. Steampunk visuals fill the huge screen behind the stage displaying a count down, accompanied with immense bass drops. A narrative voice entreating audience members to put away their phones and enjoy the show (back in the good old days) adds an element of humour but also emphasises the importance of the show experience Nightwish present. They have always been a band with a more serious persona, and with the intricate levels of detail that run musically and thematically through all of their tracks, it’s not too surprising. A sudden sense of calm washes over the stage at the end of the countdown as Troy Donockley alone on the stage performs folk melodies across a variety of instruments. The Troy is an incredibly talented musician and seeing him perform live is a real treat for the crowd. The calm and serene was not going to last long. The remaining band members enter the stage accompanied with flame bursts, fireworks and smoke – they certainly haven’t skimped with the pyrotechnics. The band members themselves create a fantastic aesthetic on stage with Tuomas Holopainen’s prominent mass of long hair and black hat, Floor Jansen dressed a baroque inspired corseting and of course, Marco Hietala’s wizard-like long blond hair and beard.

Their set sees the performance of some older tracks which have not been seen for a while. Floor impressive vocal range and texture allows her to perform tracks written for Tarja, Annette and herself flawlessly. Older tracks including Wish I had An Angel and Nemo, along with Elan from their most recent album, sees the entire arena singing their hearts out. Intricate and emotional tracks, notably Dead Boy’s Poem, The Carpenter and Ghost Love Score, are deeply atmospheric and moving to experience. The accompanying visuals and light displays enhance the themes of the tracks and immerses the audience in the music. Nightwish take their set to another level with their performance of The Greatest Show on Earth. Taken from their most recent album, Endless Forms Most Beautiful, this track shows off Nightwish’s incredible song writing and performance skills. Written for Floor, this track suits her voice perfectly incorporating more operatic styles, but also dark, low tones almost in the style of spoken word in verse sections of Chapter II: Life. This is a vocal style not explored with Tarja and Annette, and would possibly not have worked as effectively with their vocals. The Greatest Show On Earth once again sees the audience singing together, the best-known lyrics of this track: “We were here”. The depth of meaning and exploration of existence and one’s own mortality connects closely with the crowd.

Reliving the works of Nightwish, released over the years with varied vocalists and songwriting styles, produced a performance that illustrates the power of the symphonic metal genre. The complex instrumentation, intelligent lyrics and deep emotional connections deliver something special which other genres of music cannot create to the same degree. Beast In Black’s performance suitably introduced the themes of the symphonic and power metal genres, engaging well with the audience prior to the main act. Nightwish, with their gothic influences and theatrical show have once again proven their worthiness as one of symphonic metal’s giants.

Words by Holly Royle

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