Gig review: Nightwish – a Roppongi masterclass in symphonic metal

Floor Jansen of Nightwish. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Floor Jansen of Nightwish. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

By Stefan Nilsson

On Tuesday 19th April, Finnish symphonic metal giants Nightwish returned to Tokyo as part of the Asian leg of their “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” world tour. They gave us a great masterclass in how symphonic metal should be done.

Marco Hietala and Kai Hahto of Nightwish onstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Marco Hietala and Kai Hahto of Nightwish onstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

The expectations on Nightwish’s return to Japan, where they have a loyal following of fans, are sky high as they ride into town for a gig in Roppongi. And, oh yes, they live up to the expectations and give us a magnificent concert presenting the best parts of the new album “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” as well as crowd favourites from the band’s career.

Floor Jansen of Nightwish. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Floor Jansen of Nightwish. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

They open strongly with “Shudder Before The Beautiful” from the latest album. During the almost two-hour set we get more than a handful of songs from the new album, proving that it is one of the band’s best albums.

The band celebrates two decades of touring and recording this year and it shows. The six-piece unit (four Finns, one Englishman and a Dutchwoman) are real pros and deliver every time. They have the talent, the experience and the love of the music they play. They also have the songs to match their performance skills. The back catalogue of songs from the band’s eight studio albums is terrific. They have a pleasant problem choosing songs for their set lists.

Tuomas Holopainen and Emppu Vuorinen of Nightwish onstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Tuomas Holopainen and Emppu Vuorinen of Nightwish onstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Nightwish defies genres and can perhaps best be described as symphonic metal with some progressive touches. However, many different styles fit into the band’s fantastic sound landscape. Combining both female and male vocals and mixing heavy drumming and electric guitars with keyboards and traditional pipes and flutes and much else, Nightwish gives the world a great musical package.

Storytelling is at the centre of what Nightwish does. The band’s lyrics were already from the beginning great stories based around fantasy and mythology, not too different from many other Finnish metal bands. On recent albums some of the lyrics seem to be more personal and on the latest album there is an existential theme.

Marco Hietala of Nightwish onstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Marco Hietala of Nightwish onstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

The musicianship in this band is world class. Nightwish founder and musical mastermind Tuomas Holopainen’s keyboards are the foundation of the band’s music. The melodic parts are built around the two original members Holopainen and guitarist Emppu Vuorinen. The latest addition to the band, drummer Kai Hahto (Wintersun, ex-Rotten Sound), is perhaps a bit less of a visual showman than his predecessor, but he has the talent and energy to keep up with bassist Marco Hietala. Troy Donockley – in the band since 2007 – adds a folksy touch to the melodic metal music with his pipes, guitars and other innovative musical additions.

In vocalist Floor Jansen, Nightwish has found its perfect frontwoman. She not only has the pipes to do the singing (her vocals work great on both old Nightwish favourites and the newer material she has helped to create), she has the star quality to join an established band mid-career and confidently claim her place at centre stage. She knows how to rock a stage and get the crowd with her. She’s up there with the best in the business. One moment she rocks out with a lot of hair being thrown about and a fist punching the air. The next moment she gracefully stands still singing like an angel.

Marco Hietala and Emppu Vuorinen of Nightwish. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Marco Hietala and Emppu Vuorinen of Nightwish. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

This evening in Roppongi we get crowd favourites such as “I Want My Tears Back”, “Nemo”, “Storytime”, “7 Days To The Wolves”, “She Is My Sin”, “While Your Lips Are Still Red” and, of course, “Last Ride Of The Day”. As a special treat we get a great version of “Stargazers”, a song from 1998’s album “Oceanborn” which has been rarely performed by the band until this tour. The band finishes a great set with the masterpiece “The Greatest Show On Earth” from the latest album.

Floor Jansen of Nightwish onstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Floor Jansen of Nightwish onstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Set list, Nightwish at EX Theater Roppongi, Tokyo, Japan, 19th April 2016

  1. Shudder Before The Beautiful
  2. Yours Is An Empty Hope
  3. Ever Dream
  4. Storytime
  5. My Walden
  6. While Your Lips Are Still Red
  7. Elan
  8. Weak Fantasy
  9. 7 Days To The Wolves
  10. She’s My Sin
  11. I Want My Tears Back
  12. Nemo
  13. Stargazers
  14. Ghost Love Score
  15. Last Ride Of The Day
  16. The Greatest Show On Earth
Nightwish onstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Nightwish onstage in Tokyo. Photo: Stefan Nilsson

Nightwish – band members

Floor Jansen – lead vocals

Tuomas Holopainen – keyboards

Emppu Vuorinen – guitar

Marco Hietala – bass, vocals

Troy Donockley – pipes, whistles, guitar

Kai Hahto – drums

 

www.nightwish.com / www.facebook.com/nightwish

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