w/ Sonata Arctica & Delain
March 5, 2016
Review by JP Wood
Photos by Monika Deviat
I have not seen the 2500+ capacity MacEwan Hall sold out for a Metal show in a long, long time. Not even for bands that also pull in the more mainstream crowds like Blind Guardian and Gwar. But Nightwish did it! At their second concert in Calgary in over 20 years, the place was packed for an extra-ordinary bill of Euro-Metal. Delain and Sonata Arctica have also been through Calgary before and the crowds were out in force to see the triple stacked show. I’m not surprised Nightwish is riding a career high with a triumphant North American tour with their new signer as they just recently won the award for Best Metal album in their homeland of Finland.
Delain started off the show on time to a fairly full room. Singer Charlotte Wessels has such charisma and seemed so happy to be on stage. It was hard not to be impressed by her excellent voice accompanied by her enthusiasm and stage presence. Delain had a very simple stage show and were on and off in 30 short minutes. They treated the crowd to a pair of excellent tracks called “Turn The Lights Out” and “Suckerpunch” off the new teaser EP Lunar Prelude [Napalm Records, 2016]. I think “Suckerpunch” will be the big single off the new album. The rest of the set was comprised of the hits, or should I say most popular tunes. It was nice to see them on the big stage instead of the small bar stage they played on the last time they were in Calgary.
Sonata Arctica tours everywhere and tours hard. I’ve seen them six or seven times now and they always impress. Tony Kakko seemed to be relaxing more and more as his role as frontman. In previous years I have seen him he appeared absolutely stiff. There were some serious sound problems during this set as people could hardly hear Kakko’s stage banter between songs. He would do monologues and tell a few jokes but barely anyone could hear him. The sound guy should have cranked up the levels to compensate for his much speaking voice which is much deeper than his higher register singing voice. Sonata Arctica are always about the speed though they balanced it well with some slower numbers such as “I Have A Right” from STONES GROW HER NAME [Nuclear Blast, 2012]. The band only had time for seven songs and they choose to play three songs from their debut ECLIPTICA! [Spinefarm Records, 1999]. Unfortunately (for me) they didn’t play any songs from my favourite album, WINTERHEATRS GUILD [Spinefarm Records, 20-3]. The sound was crystal clear during the songs and the mood was fun and energetic; as if the pressure of being a headliner was lifted and they could maybe relax a bit.
As I mentioned earlier, Nightwish is doing really well even though they are in a bit of a difficult position with the high profile changes in singers has made it hard for the band to continue to embrace past work. What I mean by that is some of their songs from the Tarja years were so inextricably linked to her legacy and style that it is hard for them to play those songs and do those songs justice if they were inclined to try to do so. That is not to say that new vocalist Floor Jansen can’t do those songs – she is more than capable – but Nightwish has always been a progressive and forward thinking band so instead of having Floor do lots of the operatic Tarja era songs they have embraced their new material for live shows. The set-list was heavily weighted on the non-Tarja (last three albums) studio albums. That worked fine – it’s subjective as to how much people like each style and I still have a soft spot for the Tarja years myself.
There was a rumour that Floor had the flu and/or was sick but she sounded superb to me. The setlist could have used a bit more punch, maybe a few more faster and heavier songs. What they did offer in the set was melodramatic and really engaging. Highlights for me were “Storytime” with its super catchy chorus and similarly appealing, “I Want My Tears Back”.
All in all, it was a great night. Nothing was too crazy heavy or energetic, it was just good symphonic and operatic styled Metal with excellent musicianship and great signs for bands that I have followed and enjoyed for a long time. They announced this show almost a full year in advance and it was worth the wait!