Support acts: Sabaton, Delain
Nightwish North America Tour, April/May 2015
Every once in a while, touring magic happens when two or more of your favorite bands get scheduled to go on tour together. This happened for me twice last year with the Delain/Within Temptation European tour and the Amaranthe/Within Temptation North American Tour! (see my previous reviews). I attended three shows each for those tours! But lightning actually was to strike 3 times for me… as Delain and Nightwish announced they would be touring North America this year! Initially, Delain was the only support band announced on this current tour. Sabaton was added later. I had mixed feelings about Sabaton being added. I had never seen them live and wasn’t a huge fan like I was with Delain and Nightwish. But I’d heard they were great live and I had really wanted to see them. My concern, though, was that the third band on the bill might shorten Delain’s set. As with last year’s tours, I knew this one was too good to see only once and I made arrangements to go to three shows: Los Angeles, Phoenix (Tempe) and Silver Spring(Washington DC).
The first show in Los Angeles was at the stunningly beautiful Greek Theater in the Hollywood Hills. It was a large outdoor amphitheater surrounded by trees. The majority of the venue was seated with a small general admission pit in the front. The acoustics were phenomenal! The venues in Phoenix (The Marquee) and Silver Spring (The Fillmore) were typical, general admission, moderate sized concert halls with good acoustics. The lighting was phenomenal at the Greek Theater and good at The Fillmore. It was way too dark for my tastes at the Marquee.
The show began with Delain’s set and, as I feared, they had a very short set of only seven songs. But quality is better than quantity and their sets were stunning every night! They just seem to sound better and better every time that I see them! Their set began with the fan favorite “Mother Machine” at every show that I attended. The energy climbed from there with the energetic “Get the Devil Out of Me”, which got the crowd jumping every night. “Army of Dolls” and “Stardust” were the only songs from their newest album on the set list in LA and Phoenix. At the Greek Theater, as he had at a few of the previous shows, Marco Hietala from Nightwish took the stage next to sing with Charlotte; recreating the stunning duet, “The Gathering” from Delain’s first album! The crowd roared with approval! To the crowds disappointment, there was no duet with Marco at The Marquee in Phoenix, and the spot was filled with “Electricity” instead.
Marco returned to the stage in Silver Spring (the last show of the tour) to sing with Charlotte again; performing the duet “Sing to Me” form Delain’s newest album. During the previous duets at the previous shows, Marco was dressed in his Nightwish stage attire. In Silver Spring, however, in what I assume was one of those “last show of the tour” pranks, he came out dressed in a top hat, cowboy boots, a pair of underwear…. and nothing else! The duet was stunning… but there are just some things you can’t unsee… and that image of Marco in his underwear is, unfortunately, forever burned into my retinas… For the penultimate song of the set, the band performed “Not Enough”… the title of which pretty much summed up fans feelings regarding the length of the set. The song was especially beautiful at the Greek Theater as Charlotte’s vocals at the end soared out over the trees… I literally got chills! The set ended every night, as expected, with “We Are the Others”.
Next up was Sabaton, a five piece heavy metal band from Sweden, whose songs are usually themed after war or famous battles. I was anxious to see them live as I had heard a lot of great things about them. Were they worth having a shorter Delain set?… well… maybe…. but being a huge Delain fan, that’s actually a pretty good complement from me. First off, Sabaton is just a really fun band live! They put on a high energy show and they were all smiles throughout most of the set. I was really impressed with the vocals as most of the choruses were sung in four part harmony. This band, hands down, has some of the best harmonies I’ve ever heard in an all male metal band! There was a lot of self deprecating humor as well, with frequent references to how similar the lead singer, Joakim Brodén, looks to one of the members of The Village People! We even got a audience participation chorus of “YMCA” at the Silver Spring Show.
The crowd was very active for Sabaton’s nine song set, with lots of cheering, jumping, and fist pumping. I believe the set list was the same at all three shows I attended. The set opened every night with “Ghost Division”. I wasn’t familiar with all of their songs, but the three that stood out the most to me live were: “Carolus Rex”, “Swedish Pagans”, and “The Art of War”. Other songs included: “To Hell and Back”, “Resist and Bite”, and “Night Witches”. The second to last song of the set was “Primo Victoria”. At the final show in Silver Spring, in what I again assume was a “last show of the tour” prank, someone came crawling across the stage during this song in a flimsy card board tank, with the words: “Sabaton War Machine” scrawled across it. The final song of the set was Metal Crüe. Sabaton’s’ outro on most nights was the tune: “Dead Soldiers Waltz”. But at Silver Spring, end of tour shenanigans continued to reign as the song techs played “In The Navy” by the Village People instead… and the band left the stage laughing…
We had a bit of a wait for the stage change, but it was all worth it when Nightwish took the stage. They are one of the top symphonic metal bands in the world and they continue to show us all why every time they hit the stage! As I sit here typing, I find it hard to come up with adjectives that adequately describe how good the show was… words like “stunning” just don’t seem to cover it. It was musically exceptional! I could not have been more impressed with their new singer Floor Jansen. I have been a fan of hers for years, but had yet to see her live. She has phenomenal stage presence and headbangs like a demon. And… she is the embodiment of vocal perfection! I can’t think of any other vocalist in the genre that can sing such a wide variety of styles with the power and beauty that I witnessed at these shows. As expected, the band’s long term drummer, Jukka, was absent from the tour due to health issues. But the replacement drummer, Kai, did a stellar job of recreating the complex rhythms that Nightwish is known for… but he was much less visible to the audience than Jukka used to be due to the configuration of his numerous cymbals.A seventeen song set was played every night. The set list was heavily weighted toward the newer songs with seven of them being played most nights. The show began with “Shudder Before The Beautiful”, and “Yours Is An Empty Hope”. Other songs from the new album included “My Walden”, “Élan”, “Weak Fantasy”, and portions of the new album’s magnum opus, “The Greatest Show On Earth”. The title track of the album, “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”, was played in LA and Phoenix, but I was surprised to see it was dropped from the set at the final show in Silver Spring. Additional songs played at some, but not all of the shows I attended included, “Dark Chest of Wonders”, “EverDream”, and “Seven Days to the Wolves”. “Stargazers” and “Sleeping Sun” were resurrected for the current tour after being off the set list for a number of years. Fan favorites “Amaranth”, “She Is My Sin”, “The Islander”, and “Storytime” rounded out the main set.
The audience response was tremendous at all shows, but seemed the craziest at Silver Spring with a lot of moshing and crowd surfing. To commemorate this final show, all of the bands came out during the performance of “The Greatest Show On Earth”. Some notable antics included Sabaton’s drummer (who I’ve been told is Floor’s boyfriend?), came out in women’s makeup wearing one of Floor’s stage costumes. Delain’s guitarist, Timo, came out in his underwear wearing what looked like a Lone Ranger mask (yeah… don’t ask me… no explanation here…). The final two songs every night were the stunning “Ghost Love Score”, and crowd sing-a-long, “The Last Ride of the Day”. “Ghost Love Score” was the highlight of every show for me, and I literally got tears in my eyes every time Floor sang the song.
The tour is now over, but for those of you that missed this awesome event… you’ll get a second chance. Nightwish tours Europe in late 2015, Australia in early 2016, and returns to North America in early 2016 as well. But don’t miss them next time!!.. as their next tours will likely not happen until 2018…