The lineup began before 6 pm and the doors opened around 6:55 pm. After a brief queue for a t-shirt, it was about a 20 minute wait to get seated. Most of the crowd headed straight for the floor, but many of the older folks headed upstairs for an unobstructed view.
Openers Sonic Syndicate seemed like an odd match for the polished Nightwish. They have two singers and played overly simple hard-core metal with cookie monster vocals. As I said to the lady sitting beside me, with that type of singing, you can't tell if they are asking for cookies or trying to conjure up Satan.
Nightwish were greeted with a deafening roar of approval from the fans, which was even louder when the lead singer, Sweden's Anette Olzon, the replacement for the operatic Tarja Turunen, took to the stage. Olzon was all smiles and sang beautifully. Bassist Marko ”Marco” Hietala, he of the two-pronged long goatee, sang along side Olzon and even took over lead vocal duties occasionally. Guitarist Erno “Emppu” Vuorinen ran around the stage and together with Hietala, injected brilliant bursts of galloping thrash, equally good to what Metallica pioneered over 25 years ago.
They opened the show with the fourth single from the Dark Passion Play, "Bye Bye Beautiful," an intense number based on Tarja Turunen, with lyrics questioning her commitment to the band from an open letter that was used to fire her in 2005. The band isn't able to ignore the material that Tarja sung on and included several in the set, including the rousing closer, "Wish I Had An Angel," from the 2004 album Once.
Nightwish appeal to me for a few reasons. Their music has a positive feel which resonates more than the whole evil, aggressive shtick that so many bands rely on. Musically, within the same song, they can shift from melodic metal, founded on uplifting, majestic, and atmospheric keyboards, to rapid fire technically proficient thrash metal. Their sound has become a formula that many other bands have emulated to varying degrees of success. Songs that weren't all that familiar to me didn't leave a strong impression but when they found the groove, they could not be denied as a powerful metal band. Many metal fans are divided over the sound of bands like Nightwish, Sonata Artica, Stratovarius, etc., seeing them as being trendy and shallow but having heard the entire gamut of every style of metal, I can see the appeal of bands where you can actually understand the lead vocals and you have grown beyond the tired attitudes. Sometimes you just want to hear some good music and Nightwish certainly fit the bill for me.
At the end of the show, the band moved to the front of the stage to give fans a chance for photographs. It seemed like everyone who stood up to leave suddenly whipped out their cameras and were snapping away while the band smiled and posed. Anette Olzon spoke to the audience a fair bit, and stopped to cruise along the front of the stage to shake hands and greet the audience with her warm, personal style. Keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen, the one who looks a little bit like a tall Kirk Hammet, isn't a virtuoso like Jens Johansson, but he's more than adequate and is most valuable to the band as their main composer. Drummer Jukka “Julius” Nevalainen didn't give a pointless solo, although some of the fans were calling for one, but he did a fine job nonetheless. Unlike the drummers for Sonata Artica and Stratovarius, Nevalainen doesn't utilize a blazing power metal style but I don't think anyone would hold that against him.