In the spring of 2018, Nightwish released Decades, an album highlighting the most “essential” (in Tuomas’s words), songs in the history of Nightwish. They did an extensive world tour which ended mid December in Finland with a date in Turku and the final show in Helsinki. I had the amazing opportunity to have a word with Tuomas (check out the interview at the end of the article), as well as shoot and witness the show in Turku.
The lights went down and the curtain pulled back to reveal an image on the backdrop of some metal looking contraption. After a few seconds I realized it was meant to resemble a vault, which was totally fitting to this “Decades” concept. A voice above started, “Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the show. There once was a time…” and proceeded to tell a story of a magical time when people didn’t have cell phones and immersed themselves in the experience of being at the show. Urging attendees to keep their phones in their pockets and simply enjoy with their own eyes as to also not spoil the show for future fans. After the two minute tirade, a countdown appeared on the backdrop to amp up the crowd for the final minute before the show began. I personally was drawn into the countdown to the point that I expected some epic blast of music or crazy bang of pyrotechnics… But instead, as soon as the countdown ended, Troy began with the incredibly calm, serene intro to “Swanheart”. They definitely succeeded in getting a laugh out of me and a few others in the crowd with the unexpected flop of adrenaline.
After that, though, the anticipated epic blast of music and crazy bang of pyrotechnics did arrive with “Dark Chest of Wonders”. I hate to be critical because I admire Floor immensely, but it sounded like she just was not ready at the beginning of the song. She seemed to be fiddling with her sound gear a bit too. However, it did even out towards the end of the song and everything seemed to be right with the world as they powered into “I Wish I Had an Angel”. As I watched from my spot on the side of the stage with the other waiting photographers (we were kept out of the photo pit for the first three songs due to the pyros and smoke), I couldn’t help but think of the cliche that the band was like a well oiled machine in the best way. Their stage presence and sound was flawless (aside from the first song), but not to the point where it was over rehearsed or “old” if you had seen them live before. The interaction with each other and the crowd was what really made their performance stand out, and give their stage presence that desired something that many bands (specially bands of their caliber) can’t pull off.
I really enjoyed the bluesy folk rendition of the “Elvenjig” the guys played as an intro to “Elvenpath”. They seemed like they were just having a spontaneous jam, interacting with each other and getting into it. I was also impressed by the way they arranged “Elvenpath” for this tour. I loved hearing the intro done by Floor, and the harmonizing with Marco gave me chills. It seemed the band was really enjoying themselves in general, more so than I have seen in the past. Marco and Emppu seeming to sing to each other dramatically during older songs as if they had some long standing inside joke about it, Tuomas playing so passionately at times it looked like he was having a heated argument with his keyboards, Floor interacting so genuinely with the audience as if she knew everyone personally, Marco and Floor interacting with each other effortlessly (specially during “The Greatest Show on Earth”, as they grunted and squawked at each other along with the animals on the track from the song, adding a few animalistic gestures too) …Maybe it was because it was the end of the tour, or the songs were so familiar, they felt they could let go a bit. Either way, after the numerous times I’ve seen them, the show had not gotten old.
The stage itself was interesting to take note of, too. Tuomas’s keyboard set up was quite plain, and there was nothing eccentric on stage like previous tours, though the pryos and smoke were as epic as they could be indoors. The minimalistic set up helped focus the attention on the projection of the backdrop (which continued to the base of the stands that held Tuomas, Kai and Troy, engulfing the band members at times). Through out the show, they used recognizable artwork from the various Nightwish albums as well as took individual symbols and parts of the artwork itself and incorporated them into the graphics. Occasionally, it distracted a bit from the musicians but it definitely added to the show and emphasized the concept of going back in time and revisiting old themes found in Nightwish’s music.
It was really nice to see and hear a few of the songs they had not played live (or at least not recently). Mostly, the songs Tuomas mentioned in the interview which were a bit harder to play live due to “goofy” lyrical content or possibly deeper meaning to him. I was a bit distracted as they began “The Carpenter” but as soon as Troy started singing they had my full attention. Marco took a seat on Troy’s stand for part of the song and I considered how it would sound if they did that as an acoustic song. Wondering if they would ever be performing it live again anyway. “Wishmaster” also got a refreshing addition when Netta Skog (former accordionist of Ensiferum/Turisas) joined them on stage. She seemed right at home with the band and it was incredibly amusing to watch her, Marco and Emppu interact with each other.
One of the most memorable songs I have seen Nightwish play live over the years has been “The Greatest Show On Earth”. The first time I saw this, was at their stadium gig in Tampere in 2015 and I, myself, was mesmerized and lost track of everything for most of the song. The entrancing piano intro by Tuomas paired with the dream-state likeness of the starry background is unforgettable. As I looked around the stadium during the intro this time, I did not see one phone screen in the air. Everyone was just as mesmerized as I had been the first time, with the same starry backdrop reflected in their eyes. In this day and age, it really takes a unique and talented musician/band to capture the full attention of an audience (an almost full stadium none the less) like that. For them to let themselves be completely immersed and forget their lives for a few moments (as Floor urged the crowd to do and join her in dancing to “I Want My Tears Back”). It brought me to the beginning of the show with the disembodied voice telling the tale of the time before cell phones and my skepticism that the audience would take heed of the moral of his story. But, it doesn’t surprise me that Tuomas and Nightwish has succeeded in such a feat. I look forward to experiencing more moments like that during the next show that will hopefully be on the tour for their next album.
Intro – Swanheart performed by Troy Donockley
1. Dark Chest of Wonders
2. I Wish I Had An Angel
3. 10th Man Down
4. Come Cover Me
7. Sacramentof Wilderness
8. Dead Boy’s Poem
9. Elvenjig (traditional cover)
11. I Want My Tears Back
12. Last Ride of the Day
13. The Carpenter
14. Wishmaster (with Netta Skog)
15. The Kinslayer
16. Devil & the Deep Dark Ocean
18. Slaying the Dreamer
19. The Greatest Show on Earth (Chapter I: Four Point Six; Chapter II: Life; Chapter III: The Toolmaker)
20. Ghost Love Score
Outro-The Greatest Show on Earth (Chapter IV: The Understanding; Chapter V: Sea-Worn Driftwood)
Report and photos by Serena Solomon