Nightwish – San Francisco – April 28th, 2015
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 2.5 years since the last Nightwish show, where Floor was still settling into the recently and abruptly vacated spot behind the mic. But after pulling it together to finish what must’ve been a nightmare of a tour, and dropping another great album, Nightwish was back to prove they’re still masters of the symphonic metal domain.
Even though the price keeps creeping up, I had no problems dropping money on a VIP ticket the first day. There’s pretty much no other band that I connect to so well, both musically and lyricly. We were let in at 5:30 to another unorganized mess at The Warfield. I like how all I said was “Where’s the VIP line?” and I was let in, no ticket check or anything. By the time they started checking and giving out bracelets, half the line had already passed through. It went a lot slower this time, but I’d later learn there was a good reason for that. So in the mean time, I got some early shopping done at the merch booth, and rocked out to Delain soundchecking with Mother Machine. No camera like last time so I guess I’m not showing up on their next DVD :(
Instead of parading us through the line as quickly as possible, they were taking smaller groups up and letting us have a little face time with everyone, which was really, really appreciated. I pulled out my limited edition earbook version of Endless Forms Most Beautiful for them to sign. Marco and Emppup were first up and they immediately noted that the band picture they took was on a freezing cold morning. All of them were very receptive, shook hands, exchanged smiles. It felt a lot more personal. Next up was Tuomas. I asked him if he was the Patrick Rothfuss fan responsible for Edema Ruh, which was a pretty dumb question because I knew he was. But he nodded excitedly and admitted he was a huge fan. I told him how Edema Ruh was my favorite track on the album, and how it’s crazy when two things I love meet up. He just kinda smiled and said, “When worlds collide.” The ever-sweet Floor was up next, and she’s always so nice to talk to. Then came Kai, the new/temporary/replacement? drummer while Jukka was sidelined. Looking back, I seemed to interact very little with him. Sorry! Finally was Troy. I let him know I’m glad he was added as a permanent member, and that I enjoyed his contributions to the latest album. His instruments were a lot more prominent and he laid down some great backing vocals. I was handed the signed poster that had preceded me down the line, as well as a little tour program/photobook. Once our little group finished, Ewo, Nightwish’s manager, took our cameras and we got to go behind the table and take pictures with the band. Marco, Emppu, and Tuomas in one; Floor, Kai, and Troy in the other. Definitely was worth the wait.
After that, there was nothing else to do but head inside and find a spot to camp out for the ~45 minutes till the show. With the front of the pit already entrenched, I opted for the front of the first tier, off to the left in front of where Tuomas would be. It was a good view of all the stage and I wouldn’t really have to deal with a mass of people bumping into me all night. It felt a little weird having the concert start at 7:30, but with 2 opening bands I guess it made sense. And they started at 7:30 right on the dot.
Delain just kinda stormed the stage, I didn’t even hear the intro to Mother Machine play over the speakers. Charlotte was ever the energetic frontwoman, gracefully traversing what little stage space they had. I could barely see Martijn back behind the keyboards. The only had a short 30-minute setlist, so it was like mini-greatest hits set; they didn’t delve into any of their newer stuff, just the concert staples.
●Get the Devil Out of Me
●Army of Dolls
●The Gathering (Looking at the other setlists from this tour, it looked like they had removed this song from the set. Which is really weird, because it’s one of their defining songs. It turns out, they were saving it for a few select shows where they would have Marco join them on stage. I guess it would be kind of disappointing for them to do this song and not have him come out when he was just sitting back stage. I didn’t expect them to play it, but when they started, I scrambled to get my phone out because I knew what it meant. Judging by how many people pulled out their phones/cameras after Marco came out, it seems like I was one of the few that knew Marco sings on this song on the album! I was totally ecstatic this was one of the few nights they chose to do this!)
Once they started breaking down the set and the Sabaton banner came up, the crowd went crazy. Once the lights dimmed and Sabaton came out, the crowd went even crazier. It was a deafening reception for them, and it would be like that throughout their set; lots of screaming and Sa-ba-ton! chants. If I had to pick one word to describe Sabaon, it would be fun; which isn’t a typical word you’d pick for a metal band. But these guys, running all over the stage, with their almost-cheesey stage moves, and outpouring of energy make for the most fun sets to listen to and be a part of. Lots of jumping too, hope you’re okay with cardio. Their catchy songs and pulsing beats are always fun to listen to, even if you don’t know the words at all! Towards the end, I guess they found out it was someone’s 16th birthday… so they dragged her up on stage for the last song. That’s pretty awesome of them and the crowd loved it!
Nightwish is once again performing at their peak. Floor has settled in and proven that she’s not only capable of doing the newer songs, but she’s capable of bringing new life into songs from any era of Nightwish. Troy is a lot more involved and was on and off the stage regularly, instead of just during the “Troy block” of songs on previous tours. I still think it’s a little weird not seeing Jukka back behind the kit, but Kai proved himself a worth successor. Often during songs he’d throw in some extra flashy fills, just to remind us to pay attention to him. The little ball of energy known as Emppu was the same smiling, silly-gesture making, guitarist we’ve known to come and love. There was definitely an increased amount of guitar solos, which must be a blast for him. On the latest album, and the subsequent tour, Marco didn’t have much in the way of lead vocals. He did a decent amount of backing vocals, including parts that I could’ve sworn were Troy’s. Finally, Tuomas, the imaginative mainmain, was content behind his rack of keyboards with a perpetual grin on his face, rocking out to every song.
The set featured a giant Endless Forms Most Beautiful backdrop that rotated as the night went on. The keyboard rack, Marco’s mic stand, and Troy’s seat/mic stand, featured what appeared to be people entombed in volcanic ash. Nothing really flashy. It was a little underwhelming when thinking about some of the sets I’ve seen Dream Theater or Within Temptation drag around on tour with them. Sure, the music and performance is more important, but part of the wonder of going to a concert is the presentation of the music. But all of that was forgotten once the lights dimmed and the roar of the crowd took over. They played the last section of The Greatest Show On Earth and bathed us in a ocean-blue light. Kai took his place behind the drum set to a warm welcome. Then, everything went dark.
●Shudder Before the Beautiful (Richard Dawkins began his intro as we all waited in the dark. Mere seconds after he ends with “A shudder before the beautiful,” they launch right into the song. Flashing lights reveal that Tuomas and Marco had took their places on stage while we couldn’t see. Nice touch. It wasn’t too long before Emppu joined and made sure to remind us we were at a metal concert. Floor finally arrived last to an enthusiastic crowd. Keyboard solos are few and far between these days for Nightwish, so it was great to see Tuomas and Emppu going back and forth trading solos!)
●Yours Is an Empty Hope (Without wasting much time, they went right into this more aggressive song, which has shades of Master Passion Greed, but without the cold bitterness behind it. If you haven’t seen Floor live, you should know that she is not afraid to headbang on stage! She also shows off her rougher side, something that she had been exploring a little with ReVamp. But paired with Marco, they made quite a menacing duo.)
●Amaranth (Floor only sang about half of the verses, instead asking us to sing instead. Emppu was all smiles here, having an absolute blast; you can’t help but smile back. During the bridge, Floor tried to lead us in some “Hey! Hey! Hey!” -ing, but it just turned into a sea of uncontrolled chanting. My friend showed me on her phone “Hep?” Anette’s signature chant, to which I could only reply, “Too soon.” It still is.)
●She Is My Sin (Having seen them bring this one back on the Showtime, Storytime DVD, I knew Floor would absolutely knock this one out of the park. Her interpretation of it is amazing, especially how well she handles the high ending. Kai really put some extra oomph at the end too, inserting some pretty impressive fills into the already packed part.)
●Endless Forms Most Beautiful (Marco reminds us that they have a new album out, and that this one is the title track. Easy enough. I love the intro to this track, it feels like a daring chase. They had these blue runner lights that were moving back and forth, giving the impression that it was circling the stage. The bridge was great too, watching Tuomas gracefully manage his three keyboards.)
●My Walden (A random Troy appears! He gets us going with this song, and it was pretty cool watching him and Emppu playing the same melody and rocking out together. It was a very fun song, very uplifting and everyone on stage was rocking along. I say this a lot, but Floor + Marco + Troy = Amazing Harmony. Speaking of Marco, he came out wielding a double-necked guitar/bass to everyone’s astonishment. He put it to good use during the C-section when it needed a little extra heaviness.
●The Islander (At this point, everyone leaves the stage except for Marco. He says he dragged this thing out, so he might as well do something with it to entertain us. Turns out, that meant playing the first half of this song solo. After the verses and choruses, everyone except Emppu came back out. Kai doing some light percussion, Tuomas on piano and strings, and Troy with a flute. Marco and Floor traded “So long ago”s and it ended up being kind of a free from improv ending to song. Somehow, this song always has the most memorable performances.)
●Elan (Floor invites us to sing along with this one as well. This is another song where you kinda can’t help but smile. This was another instance where I was surprised by the backing vocals on the chorus. I could’ve sworn Troy did the ahhs while Marco backed floor, but it was the other way around. Nice surprise!)
●Weak Fantasy (Another Dawkins intro. They added a little bit extra to the intro there that I really liked. Tuomas was playing the strings intro with Kai playing the drums, but instead of the drums resting every other measure and having the symphony take the spotlight, they did the opposite. It effectively gave Kai a mini drum sol! It was simple at first, but grew pretty complicated after a few times through; as complicated as you could get in a measure. After that, they continued into the proper intro. This was probably the most exciting and thrilling song they played, and it was the one I was looking forward to seeing the most. Troy even got out a stringed instrument (that probably wasn’t a guitar) and joined Emppu and Marco. Great drumming by Kai throughout the song. On the second chorus and on, Marco was singing the main chorus and Floor opted to go for the higher harmony that’s just barely audible on the album. I loved it, nice control and power from her there. Marco was still wielding his double-necked guitar/bass and played along with Troy during the bridge; I always appreciate when bands play as much live as they can.)
●Storytime (It may be just me, but it seemed like Floor was a lot more comfortable with this song. 2.5 years ago, she sang it for only the 3rd time and she hadn’t really decided how to approach it. Now, she did so confidently. I still love how she handles the lead in to the final chorus, showing off her classical singing.)
●Dark Chest of Wonders (I’m a little bitter, since this was the usual spot for Ever Dream, easily one of my favorite songs, and this happened to be one of the few times they swapped it out. It was especially overkill after playing Shudder Before The Beautiful and Storytime; both album opening songs with that grand, welcoming feeling. But oh well. A little heavier than the two aforementioned tracks, so maybe they thought we still had a lot of energy.)
●Alpenglow (Troy intros this one, talking about how the song is about the feeling of being on top of the world and being able to take in all the beautiful sights below. Man, this song’s chorus is so damn catchy, so catchy that Tuomas was singing along every time. It’s also not every day that you can hear a guitarist pass off a solo to a flutist. I also love the mid-chorus key change right at the end, it still catches me off guard.)
●Stargazers (Floor points out that the giant backdrop has now changed to the classic Oceanborn cover, and fittingly, they’ve brought back a song that hasn’t been on the setlist for 10 years. She hopes that she’s excited for us to hear this song because she thinks it’s “fucking awesome” that they’re playing it again. Once they start playing the intro to it, the crowd definitely roared its approval! Floor was in full classical mode for this song and I can’t remember a recent song where Emppu as much lead as in this song. And we got -another- keyboard solo, what is going on?)
●Sleeping Sun (Still in the Oceanborn era, but this one is the only song that’s remained in the setlist. For some reason, the pit thought the chorus would be a great time to mosh, and they announced it by screaming really loud leading up to it. The way the band played it, and how Floor sang it, makes me think that this was how they were trying to get it to sound on the 2005 remake of it, where Tarja was trying to sing with the classical power of her voice turned off. That didn’t work, but this did.)
●The Greatest Show on Earth (Troy got a little bit of spotlight as he soloed with Tuomas backing, while Dawkins made yet another voiceover. Then they dove right into the heart of this massive song, performing Part 2 and Part 3. We got a good taste of Floor’s range, going from the cold, emotionless voice during the verses to the powerful, soaring chorus, once again backed by the ever harmonic Marco and Troy. A lot of drum fills again by Kai, which I don’t remember from the album. There was a lot of parts in between where Tuomas was taking the lead, playing pretty much all of the stings parts. There was that breakdown part in the middle where everything went dark, and Floor started vocalizing over the strange animal noises. Part 3 brought us one of the only other parts with Marco on lead vocals; he definitely savored it, giving us a very animated performance. As we hit the final stretch, Floor gave us three words to sing along with: We were here. She cued us in and the entire venue screamed it back at them. It was a pretty awesome moment, seeing every member of the band shouting it, right along with the entire crowd, as the song pushed towards the big climax.)
●Ghost Love Score (The stage went dark, and everyone but Tuomas and Kai left. I imagine this is where the encore started, but they didn’t bother going through the whole rigmarole of leaving, making us chant, etc. Which was fine by me! And finally, I got to hear this song live! It’s one of my favorite Nightwish songs. It wasn’t on their initial setlist in 2004, and by the time they added it into the mix, they had canceled their 2005 follow up tour here. Then Tarja left and it all but disappeared from their setlist. But then Floor came along and they brought it back, and she breathed new life into it. Once they started, it was pretty clear it was another fan favorite. It was everything I wanted it to be! I absolutely love the new bit that Floor adds after the final choruses. Once she hits that impressive high note and holds it, hearing the crowd cheer in approval sent shivers down my spine.)
●Last Ride of the Day (The appropriately titled song indicated that we were nearing the end, but we had time for one last ride. This is probably their best closer, although it’s always bittersweet to hear since it really does indicate the end. But it’s still an exciting song and really does give us that last thrill before the lights finally raise and the bows are taken, after another fantastic night. Until the next ride!)