Russell W Elliot | Deborah J Elliot
Musical Discoveries coverage of Nightwish began with a comprehensive feature that reviewed all three their albums and incorporated an exclusive interview with lead vocalist Tarja Turunen. Although some might categorise Nightwish as a heavy metal band, the band's symphonic arrangements and Tarja's operatic vocals certainly broaden the appeal of their sound to a much wider audience.
Nightwish are likely to appeal to those that like harder edged progressive music as well as art rock bands like October Project. The band is strong instrumentally generating significant—at times almost overwhelming—power from guitars, keyboards and rapidfire percussion yet it is complimented with equally sweet operatic style vocals. Tracks vary from heavy metal anthem to operatic ballad demonstrating significant virtuosity and range. The band's blend of harder edged metallic rock arrangements with Tarja's stunning vocals is highly original and has likely led to to their international critical acclaim.
The band has developed dramatically since their first album Angels Fall First (1997). While their metal edge was clearly defined then, the power and dynamic construction of their music took hold in Nightwish's second album Oceanborn (1998). The band's latest album entitled Wishmaster was released in early 2000. Our feature was published shortly after the release and was the first online article outside the heavy metal community to include an indepth interview with Tarja. Although at the time we didn't believe that a face-to-face meeting would be possible, we were very qucily proven wrong.
Musical Discoveries' Scandinavian correspondent—Mauri Osterholm—learned of the shows at Le Medley in Montreal, a mere 5-hour drive from our upstate New York headquarters. One only has to read a review of one of the many live shows on their extensive world tour to promote the new album to recognise that missing such an opportunity would be a sin. We are indebted to Sebastien Theoret of Frowz Productions who kindly arranged our passes and gave us full access to the venue and members of all four female vocal fronted bands comprising the show that evening.
We arrived at Le Medley in time for a good portion of the Nightwish soundcheck. Tuomos quickly got the keyboards playing to full effect as Sami and the sound men worked the kinks out of the bass amps. Emppu's guitar work was instantly recongisable as he concluded his warmup. And Jukka's drums were everso powerful right from the beginning.
Nightwish came into full splendour demonstrating their significant power when performing the instrumental part of "She Is My Sin." Tarja left her fiance and the table beside us to take her place at centre stage. The song was performed again with vocals. Although it was just a soundcheck, our preview of what was to come was awe inspiring. The band quickly left the stage and our wait for the full live performance began.
Nightwish In Montreal
In turn from closest to Nightwish to furthest away in running order, the other bands each did their sound checks—Forgotten Tales, Trancendence and finally Hypnos. Clearly it was going to be an evening of contrasts but centred on the heavier of metal edged sounds.
The venue quickly filled once doors were opened with enthusiasts quickly scooping up Nightwish tour t-shirts, albums and items from the other bands. The t-shirts sold out quickly and are now a northeastern America rarity. Le Medley is a lovely venue with standing room in front of the stage for hundreds and a small seating area with tables behind and above the main floor. A balcony above provides a spot for light and sound engineers and additional audience seating. Well over 1,000 highly enthusiastic music lovers packed the club on the evening, many standing for the entire four-band performance.
While Hypnos became more interesting as their set developed, Transcendence was certainly our favourite of the support bands. Their music is a blend of heavy metal and progressive, much like Nightwish, but lighter and more art rock in orientation. Two female vocalists performed flawlessly although the mix could have featured their contributions more. Stay tuned to Musical Discoveries for further work of their music.
We met with Nightwish during a portion of the Transcendence performance. They were clearly in the final stages of preparation, deeply concentrating on the performance ahead, yet Tarja recalled our interview and online feature vividly. She mentioned reading it when visiting Spinefarm earlier this year and smiled thanking us for the coverage. Completely made up, and in costume, we departed with a lovely memory of meeting this operatic goddess.
Forgotten Tales played covers of metal classics familiar to many in the audience drawing significant applause and generating tremendous excitement. With the venue now packed to the walls and audience entirely warmed up, the clock approached 10:30PM and they left the stage. At 10:45 the lights went out and the anticipation of Nightwish's performance led to a five minute cheering session before flashlights broke through the fog to indicate that that the band would be coming on stage.
Nightwish In Montreal
Nightwish made a dramatic entrance with an taped instrumental intro entitled "Crimson Tide" and as the instrumentalists took their position, Tarja came on stage and "She Is My Sin" was performed. Fans were pressed right up against the stage within inches of the band members. Tarja's on stage transformation is incredible. Intense eye contact with individuals in the audience is accompanied by her rhythmic bodily movements that accompany music. And she points at groups of people beckoning them either to clap with the music or raise their hands in support of the band's performance. The excitement generated is spectacular.
Nightwish were amazing! Their explosive performance just seemed to blow the audience away. The sound was as incredible as it's power was indescribable. The light that accompanied their live performance flashed or changed color to each beat; strobe effects were used and spot lights panned the audience. Tarja demonstrated her vast vocal range and power, singing evocatively to her enthusiastic fans. Toumas had an extravagant burst of energy on the synthesizers, and Jukka had a quick and powerful beat leading many to tapping along.
Emppu and Sami were on a constant move on stage with this aura in their presence that captivated the audience. Each of them had their own wave of energy that they brought to the performance. There were constant voices in the audience singing the words to each of the songs along with Tarja.
As the concert set unfolded, the band played songs from each of their three albums. A rousing performance "Gethsemane" from Oceanborn was followed by "The Kinslayer" from Wishmaster where the audience's familiarity with the band's music was demonstrated by singing along with the percussive lead vocal track. The male vocal part, created with backing tracks, actually worked quite well. As Musical Discoveries Editors' favourite "Deep Silent Complete" developed, Tarja pointed the microphone into the audience to emphasise her desire for all of us to participate in the vocalise chorus in the middle of the song. They then returned to Oceanborn with a dynamic performance of "The Pharoh Sails to Orion" and a stunning vocal performance in "Come Cover Me" from Wishmaster.
Nightwish In Montreal
Tarja was not the only one to attract significant audience attention at Le Medley. Emppu and Sami also worked the crowd quite well both approaching those right at the front of the stage, kneeling down to emphasise specific elements of their music. "Wanderlust" preceeded a wonderful instrumental followed by the lovely ballad "Swanheart" from Oceanborn featuring Tarja's stunning lead vocal which worked extremely well in a live setting.
Tarja introduced the material and chatted briefly to the audience between each of the songs. "Elevenpath" from the band's debut album was introduced and performed true to form with Tarja's vocals soaring above the powerfully rocking instrumentals. The almost-spoken bit in the beginning of the recording is most reminiscent of Tarja's individual introductions. The final part of "Fantasmic" was performed and we enjoyed Tuomos' romp on the keyboard during it. The band's final song in the main set was a shattering performance of "Sacrement of Wilderness" with it's metal guitar arrangements and vast keyboard excursions underscoring Tarja's everso powerful lead vocal. Wild applause at the conclusion of the number brought the house down.
The band returned to the stage for two encores. The first was a lovely live performance of "Walking In The Air" which begins as a soft ballad and builds with the band to full splendour as the song develops towards its conclusion. The flute melody was played on keyboard to marvelous effect. The dynamic introduction to "Wishmaster" was instantly recognised by the audience. An almost full singalong of the percussive vocal track led Tarja to share the microphone with the audience at large as they chanted the words joining the band's explosive performance. Tarja she worked the audience for one last time, pointing and beconing to individuals and groups alike to raise their hands, move their bodies and bounce along rhythmically with the music. Their tremendous performance ended with extensive and long lasting applause. A taped instrumental outro entitled "Conquest of Paradise" was played as the band took their bows and reluctantly left the stage for the evening.
While our expectations were set high based on their music alone, we felt that Nightwish live is a complete spectacle. The music is played extremely well on stage and the band's live act is finely honed exciting and enthusing our audience to incredible heights. We found Tarja entirely captivating both vocally and visually. Her voice is as powerful as her stage presence. The band's sound was perfectly produced, with backing tracks when used blending with live material seamlessly. The light show that accompanied the music was first rate in every respect and added significantly to the mood evoked by the music. Le Medley is a great venue for this band—perfectly intimate but big enough to support the band's enormous power. Clearly this Nightwish concert was one of the finest live performances we have ever seen. Worth a cross-country or trans-Atlantic journey, they are a must see. "I wish for this night time to last for a lifetime." We really can not wait to see them again.