LIVE REVIEW: Nightwish at Wembley Arena

Nightwish Tour Poster

Date: December 19th, 2015
Venue: Wembley Arena, London
Line-up: Nightwish + Arch Enemy + Amorphis

Playing a single large arena show rather than touring the country was a risky move but it seems to have paid off for symphonic metal giants Nightwish. Not only are they the first Finnish band to play in Wembley Arena but they’ve also managed the amazing feat of selling out the 12,000 capacity venue. Support on the night comes from Swedish melodic death metal group Arch Enemy and fellow Finns Amorphis.

Opening up the show was progressive rock/metal group Amorphis. They opened up with the new-meets-old styling of ‘Death of a King’ which sounded monstrously heavy live. With a new album under their belt, Under the Red Cloud, the band were keen to show off a few tracks such as the catchy single ‘Sacrifice’ and black metal tinged ‘The Four Wise Ones’. Of course there were couple of older tracks thrown in the mix like ‘Silver Bride’ and ‘House of Sleep’ making efficient use of their short set time. Vocalist Tomi Joutsen sounded immaculate, just as good, if not better than on record at some points. Guitarist Esa Holopainen’s leads/solos really took the spotlight whenever they appeared. The crowd seemed a little timid to the band at first but they really warmed to the them by the end.

Melodic death metal powerhouses Arch Enemy stormed onto the stage with ‘Yesterday is Dead and Gone’. The guitar pairing of Michael Amott and Jeff Loomis really is a force to be reckoned with, dealing out solo after solo as if it was child’s play. Vocalist Alissa White-Gluz has a much more upbeat persona than that of her predecessor, eager to get the crowd moving and screaming with their horns in the air. Spring around the stage full of energy she got the crowd to jump along with her for ‘No Gods, No Masters’ and encouraged war cries while waving a flag for ‘Under Black Flags We March’. It was the second half of the set were the crowd really began to come alive with the symphonic flare of ‘Avalanche’ and the ruthless aggression of ‘As the Pages Burn’ and ‘Nemesis’ firing up the mosh pits.

The moment had finally arrived for Nightwish to take to the stage. Opening with a bang (quite literally), the band ploughed through the back-to-back of new tracks ‘Shudder before the Beautiful’ and ‘Yours is an Empty Hope’. The stage production was huge, the biggest I’d ever seen, there were various forms of lighting, fire, smoke and sparklers set up as well as three huge screens in the back. Everything was set up and timed perfectly with the songs, bursts of flames and smoke burst out together with the more dramatic sections of the songs.

‘Ever Dream’ and ‘Storytime’ saw vocalist Floor Jansen on top form with her soaring highs on the former and a more playful attitude on the latter. Multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley joined the band onstage for the upbeat antics of the folky ‘My Walden’. A wonderful surprise in the setlist came in the form of ‘While Your Lips Are Still Red’, a gorgeous ballad originally used in the soundtrack for a Finnish film Lieksa!.  For this performance the song has been modified from the original with Floor providing additional vocals with bassist Marco, and guitarist Emppu Vuorinen playing the violin solo.

Current touring drummer Kai Hahto and keyboard player Tuomas Holopainen battled it out for the intro to the heavy ‘Weak Fantasy’, with Kai flaunting off his amazing skills. The set mellowed out for ‘7 Days to the Wolves’ and ‘Alpenglow’ with fans singing along to the refrain of “we were here”.

The lights dimmed for what turned out to be a magnificent performance of the 15-minute epic ‘The Poet and the Pendulum’. Floor really made the song her own, singing even the more operatic sections of the track but still showed off the gentleness of her voice for the outro.

The piano opening of the bands biggest hit ‘Nemo’ had the crowd screaming their lungs out while ‘I Want My Tears Back’ had the crowd, and even Floor, dancing along to its hugely catchy chorus and the guitar/uilleann pipes solo battle. Stretching right back to the archives for the oldest track of the night, ‘Stargazers’ saw Floor match the original bombastic vocals of Tarja Turunen alongside an incredible blue display of lights.

‘Ghost Love Score’ has very much become the song that’s synonymous with Floor. Her powerful performance of the song is what sealed the deal of her becoming the bands current vocalist. Aware of this fact, Floor climbed onto a heightened section of the stage for the ending section of the track with bursts of smoke surrounding her. ‘Last Ride of the Day’ was a huge fun song which got the crowd moving and singing, there was also a video in the back of the same rollercoaster/theme park scene for the Imaginaerum album cover.

Nightwish closed the show with their latest opus, the 24-minute long ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’. It began with that haunting piano section by Tuomas solo on the stage with Floor later joining him with her higher operatic vocals. The rest of the band joined for the body of the track and you could tell that they were hugely proud of the track, giving it their all and with an accompanying video of nature and evolution to match the lyrics. When the track finished up and the band were talking their final bows and photos, they had one more surprise left up their sleeves. They separated out either side and for a guest appearance from professor Richard Dawkins to read the excerpt he had recorded for the track.

It was a phenomenal night and a fine way to end a hugely successful tour. Floor had mentioned that the show had been recorded to be released later on, whether you were there or not be sure to pick that release up because you won’t be disappointed.

Nightwish

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