Nightwish Concert Review Wiltern Theater Los Angeles 05-20-22
Nightwish Concert Review Wiltern Theater Los Angeles 05-20-22 By Roc Boyum
The long awaited return to the world stage by Symphonic Metal Giants Nightwish, finally arrived after a two year forced hiatus due to the pandemic. This tour, in support of their latest release, HUMAN. :||: NATURE. LP had two previous cancellations that actually elevated the anticipation for Nightwish’s arrival to an all time feverish high. The original Los Angeles show dates were at the Hollywood Palladium on September 11th, and 12th of 2020 and then moved to The Wiltern Theater for two shows on October 1st and 2nd of 2021; the final Los Angeles show dates were May 20th and 21st of 2022 at The Wiltern Theater; third time is a charm!.
Both of the Wiltern Theater shows were sold out despite the cancellations, and in fact, the cancellations further fueled an increased passion for fans to see these Finish Symphonic Metal pioneers. This tour also has brought session bassist, Jukka Koskinen (Norther and Dark Sarah) to replace Marco Hietala who left the band for personal reasons in 2021.
The band presented a brilliant night of music that consisted of sixteen songs in their regular set and one encore song. Their musical presentation contained five songs from their latest HUMAN. :||: NATURE. LP and twelve additional songs that were not just a cast of their greatest hits but more of a collection of music that was a great representation of what this band represents musically and lyrically, with each song illustrating a particular point in time of the band’s evolution. Nightwish fans are more of an audience that share appreciation of the band’s greatest music as opposed to their so called greatest hits, thus making the musical selection for this tour a great introspective look into 20 years of the genius of Nightwish and their music.
The beginning of a great night of music.
From a darkened stage came an eerie and pulsating prerecorded musical score of droning keyboards and voices with drummer Kai Hahto at his kit under the guise of flashing back lit strobe lights. Hahto unleashed a short rhythmic solo that went beyond a mere display of chops and technical prowess. Hahto’s solo was thematic and tribal in nature, which was like a rhythmic calling to a tribe to awaken and come forth; as so, answering the tribal call, the other band members entered the stage one by one. With a slight musical pause the entire band emerged and ignited the Los Angeles crowd with the full force of their opening song; “Noise” from their latest LP. “Noise” is a particularly interesting opening song, with it’s lyrical observation about a narcistic and self-indulgent society that is immersed in the quest for their self-worth with “selfies” and other such shallow needs through social media. Interestingly enough, Jessica Edstrom, Finnish-Swedish Model who is one of the female stars in the video for “Noise”, has around 300,000 followers on Instagram; imagine that!
Next up, a song that has become somewhat of a signature song for the band, “Planet Hell” was brought forth, with singer Jansen, impressively taking on both of the vocal duties that were previously handled by their former bassist Marco Hietala and singer Tarja Turunen. “Planet Hell” is a song that needs no introduction, and with that, singer Jansen made this comment before the song’s beginning; It’s Friday night in LA, and I think we’re gonna have an Awesome party!
The next four songs, “Élan”, “Storytime”, “She is My Sin” and “Harvest” were culled from four LPs, Endless Forms Most Beautiful, Imaginaerum, Wishmaster and HUMAN. :||: NATURE. respectively. “Élan” lyrically, is perhaps the precursor to the concept behind their latest, HUMAN. :||: NATURE. LP. Their latest LP throughout, speaks of humans, the species and their interaction with Nature, which became the unintended concept for the new LP. Holopainen at one point characterized “Élan” by stating; “The underlying theme of the song is nothing less than the meaning of life, which can be something different for all of us. It’s important to surrender yourself to the occasional ‘free fall’ and not to fear the path less traveled by.“
Singer Jansen introduced “7 Days To The Wolves” from the underrated LP Dark Passion Play by commenting; “this is one of my personal favorites”. The song starts off as a heavy grinder and later includes an impassioned guitar solo by guitarist Emppu Vuorinen who’s note bending and finger tapping, you could feel resounding throughout the venue,which gave a sense of even greater emotional expression than on the studio recording. In the song’s middle breakdown, the audience started to simultaneously clap while chanting, “Hey, Hey, Hey,” to the rhythm instigated by drummer Kai, who was clicking his sticks together. Singer Jansen then comes in with some ethereal vocals that beautifully soar over the driving pulse of the rhythm section while Holopainen lays down a bed of gothic chords while hammering out some frantic staccato rhythms. Singer Jansen comes into a chorus with the lyrics that in part refrain back to a recurring theme in recent Nightwish music by imparting the words, “give in, take the road less traveled by.” The song concludes with a musical crescendo that climaxes to it’s abrupt and definitive end. This was definitely one of the highlights of the night.
The next four songs took the audience back in time with , “Dark Chest of Wonders,” from their 2002 Once LP, “Ever Dream” from their 2002 Century Child LP, “Nemo” from their 2004 Once LP and “I Want My Tears Back,” from the 2011 release, Imaginaerum. Many fans associate “Dark Chest of Wonders, “Ever Dream”, and “Nemo” with the band’s 2005 live DVD, End Of An Era; a DVD that was an international success that had brought the band to the world stage more than ever before and was instrumental in the band’s continuing rise in popularity. It wasn’t until sometime after the release of End Of An Era, that we all understood the literal interpretation of the LP’s title which was in reference to their member line up change that signified the “End Of An Era.” These four songs once again exploited Jansen’s vocal mastery that shined through with ease in these songs that contain a wide vocal range of several different vocal styles. “Dark Chest of Wonders” is a song that originally had the angelic and operatic vocals of Tarja Turunen. “I Want My Tears Back,” was originally sung by Anette Olzon whose voice is more straight ahead rock than Jansen’s and again no problem for this masterful singer. The Tarja Turunen vocals in “Ever Dream” and “Nemo” are of course an immense vocal task to take on, and here Jansen has no problem in belting through these songs with her own operatic vocal beauty; truly amazing!
The band changed the musical mood by presenting “How’s the Heart” from their latest LP as an acoustic version of the song which was originally recorded as a full band rock ballad. An acoustic song in Nightwish’s set is nothing new, in fact, “The Islander” was previously presented live as an acoustic song and sung by Marco Hietala. The choice of “How’s The Heart” to interpret and perform as an acoustic song live was truly an inspired decision. The song talks about really finding out how people are feeling inside as opposed to the superficial pleasantries of idle conversation that so many of us are guilty of. Especially after the isolation of the pandemic that we all went through, it is so important to check-in on friends, family and with yourself, to find out how everyone is really doing. Choosing Donockley on acoustic guitar and vocals to compliment Jansen’s vocals and presenting this song in an acoustic manner, definitely conveyed the song’s sentiment with greater passion than as a full band; as their performance captured the hearts of all in attendance who were holding their lighted cell phones in the air in an emotional sea of appreciation of their performance and the song’s beautiful words and melody- great job guys!
The next song was “Shoemaker” off the new CD, which tells the story of the life of Eugene Shoemaker; The Only Human to be buried on the Moon! As the song progresses through the emotional portrayal of his life – there is a section almost near the end of the song, in which Jansen expresses the song’s story with her operatic vocals that are simultaneously gentle and powerful; a performance that drew the audience into this emotional story that rips at your heart with its powerful message.
There were two more songs before the encore; “Last Ride of the Day” (which has previously closed their set) and “Ghost Love Score”, with the latter song finishing out their regular set this evening. “Ghost Love Score” is definitely epic in its scope which is a score of music that goes through many different odd meter time signatures and moods that the band negotiates in a manner that doesn’t give the average listener a sense that there’s anything “odd” going on musically. The listener just gets caught up in the song’s emotion and doesn’t necessarily realize the magic of the musical sophistication and syncopation because the music is so pleasing and satisfying to the ears and mind, as it goes beyond the common 4/4 feel found in most typical rock music. Okay, now for some musical breakdowns – For example; the beginning staccato band figures are in groups of 6/8 and 5/8 or 11/8 if you prefer; with the song continuing in 9/16 and 12/16 before dropping into its steady and calming 4/4 groove. Most fans may not be aware of, or even care about these time signatures because ultimately, it’s simply a masterpiece of music by a composer that at many times, creates these more epic and wonderful musical scores that take the listener into an ethereal realm, far, far beyond the confines of straight-ahead party rock. The song has a middle section that spins the mind into limitless imagination and emotional wonder before the grand 6/8 waltzing section that leads us into a 4/4 rocking outro. The outro choir vocals continue with their repeating lines and churn under the insanely majestic and powerful main vocal lines by Jansen; both of which escalate the musical journey that crescendos and ultimately culminates to a final stop that simply leaves one breathless; my god, what an amazing piece of music!
The final song of the night by the band was the encore “The Greatest Show On Earth” which is perhaps their most epic musical piece to date. Some may find that it might not convey the same sense of emotional splendor that we find in “Ghost Love Score” and yet others would argue that it surpasses that splendor – but “The Greatest Show On Earth” is a song that takes us on a journey from the creation of the universe and earth itself to the beginning of primordial life and all the way up to present life on earth. The magnitude of this body of work creates more dynamic themes than anything they’ve previously created, and with the addition of a full orchestra, they’ve further expanded their palette of textures giving the listener the ability to conjure images and paintings in the mind of how the creation of the universe and nature might have been. While the song clocks in at around 24 minutes, which may seem long; consider these lyrics and music are covering billions of years of evolutionary creation which is insane to try and accomplish if you really think about it, so, if that isn’t a grand endeavor, I don’t know what is! To express the beginning and essence of life with music is a truly a monumental endeavor, but Holopainen cleverly uses a soft piano to signify an evolutionary birth along with the abrupt striking orchestral sounds that invoke images of climatic and landscape changes. The music continues to progress through its ebbs and flows, signifying the continuing evolution of life throughout the centuries. When the song was first released, I thought that this would remain as an album piece and impossible to pull off live. Here, seemingly we find, Holopainen and Nightwish have no bounds to their musical expression and at their disposal they possess the ability to exquisitely convey such a masterpiece with all the grandeur that this song has to offer; just as it was intended on the studio recording; truly amazing!
The end finale, “All The Works of Nature Which Adorn the World VIII; Ad Astra “was an extremely interesting presentation in that it was a pre-recorded piece of music from their latest LP with singer Jansen singing the vocal parts of the score. The rest of the band were standing in a line on stage in partial darkness and facing the audience as if to say; we are Nightwish, we thank you for coming and we offer ourselves as vehicles of musical expression that have taken you on a journey of thought provoking music that is perhaps a once in a lifetime musical experience, please accept our gratitude.
Even though this was for the most part a pre-recorded ending where you usually would find the audience walking out during this part; the Nightwish fans are some of the most dedicated fans ever, and in no way were about to leave; Holopainen always has something exciting up his sleeve! As the band stood on the stage during the grand finale – It was their presence during the pre-recorded track that I felt an amazing expression of appreciation from a band whose audience would remain engaged until their final departure from the stage. This is something that can only, and must be experienced live in order to truly absorb the sensation of an other worldly experience that comes with a night of music that is like living inside of your own personal movie that plays in your head until the end of the night when the band safely drops you back into reality.
Whether you know the band’s music or not, you must get out and be a part of this experience; it may not change your life forever but it will transform your evening into the realm of a mystical Imaginaerum!
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The Nightwish Wiltern Theater Set List 05-20-22 Was:
She is My Sun
7 Days of the Wolves
Dark Chest of Wonders
I Want My Tears Back
How’s The Heart ( Acoustic with Floor ad Troy)
Last Ride of the Day
Ghost Love Score
The Greatest Show On Earth
All the Works of Nature Which Adorn the World VIII. Ad Astra (Pre-recorded with Floor Jansen Live)