Released: 2013, Nuclear Blast Records
I’m a big Nightwish fan, owning pretty much everything have released, so I was pretty pumped to see this movie. Nightwish is so huge now that naturally their productivity has slowed down as it takes a year to make an album, two years to tour then some time off and that seems to be the pattern they are now in. They are among those elite bands that warrant a DVD to accompany every studio album. Accordingly, they have just issued their third DVD, or fifth depending how you count. As always the band get the luxury treatment with a CD version, a DVD version and a nice 4-disc set containing both. I’m glad Nuclear Blast gives lots of options for the fans. For the record, I am reviewing the 2 DVD’s from the 4-disc set.
The DVD is well presented with good sound, good picture quality and it is easy to navigate through the menu, all first-rate. The only technical complaint I have is that once again, Nuclear Blast did not tell us when the concert was! They have done that a number of times in the past, (most recently with the Hammerfall and Doro DVD’s) neglecting this critical information. Is it too much to ask for the band or label to tell us at what point in time the concert was filmed? Of course, I went and looked it up on-line, the concert part of the two DVD set was filmed on August 3rd, 2013 on the second last night of the IMAGINAERUM World Tour.
Disc One is the concert and what more could you ask for? Headlining on a Saturday night on the main stage with full production at the world’s largest Metal fest in front of tens of thousands at the tail-end of your triumphant world tour? It doesn’t get any bigger than that. This was the bands 5th time at WOA and second time headlining so from the opening notes the band had the crowd enraptured. I’m going to spend less time reviewing the concert because there is not as much to say about a virtually flawless show. It is was a technically superb multi-camera shoot, crystal clear sound and visuals and Floor was a seasoned veteran by this time and very comfortable leading the band. The set-list was a nice greatest hits package with six of the 15 songs being hit singles from across their career and they played a full half of the most recent album IMAGINAERUM. The crowd loved and the band rose to the occasion of the big gig. Disc Two is where the really interesting stuff is my opinion, namely the tour documentary.
Right from the very beginning we knew there was a major problem with PLEASE LEARN THE SETLIST IN 48 HOURS. Even before the documentary started there was a disclaimer on the screen that stated, ‘During the editing of this documentary, due to circumstances surrounding her departure, the former vocalist insisted that she would not been seen or heard in the documentary'. Documentaries (in theory) are supposed to be impartial, unbiased, detailed etc, but automatically that is compromised because we are only getting one-side of the story. Obviously there was some legal tension because Anette’s total absence is the only real weakness of the entire film. It is disappointing but they do the best they can under the existing restrictions. It must have been a major pain in the ass to edit her out of every scene! However, her place and history with the band is secure even if she (or her people) did not want her to participate in this film.
PLEASE LEARN THE SETLIST IN 48 HOURS starts in September, 2012. It was not a continuation of the bands first documentary, A DAY BEFORE TOMORROW which covers the tail-end of the ONCE World Tour in Finland and the dismissal of original vocalist Tarja Turenen on October 21st, 2005. You can watch this as a stand-alone feature quite comfortably.
After a very brief (and vague) overview (by a narrator) of the tension between the singer, (who is rarely referred to by name) and the band, they cut to the emotional opening scene where Olzon had been rushed to hospital and the band realizes they will have to cancel the show or improvise. The show in question was on Sept 28th, 2012 in Denver and they opt to have Alissa and Elise, from the opening act Kamelot, to sing. They have 55 minutes to learn the lyrics and the scene where the band is all huddled around with iPods, acoustic guitars and people scrambling to print lyric sheets, is real fly-on-the-wall, inner workings of a band in crisis footage. Thanks to the professionalism of the ladies they cobble together a set-list and the show goes on. Afterward backstage Nightwish founder Tuomas says he realizes that Nightwish is bigger than any one person and although he does not explicitly state it, you can tell as the leader if the band he has already made the decision to continue the tour without Anette. I was only 11 minutes into the two-hour move and I was already choked up! It was very emotional to see the range of emotions, from crushing lows and soaring highs spanned in a very short period of time. The gig was a success, sloppy but the show must go on…
The next day Anette performs her last show in Salt Lake City and the decision has been made. The scene with Tuomas writing the press release announcing her departure is very sad and you can tell there is tension and sadness among the band and crew. The band is not having fun. Suddenly Floor Jansen is there with some more intimate footage of her on the bus learning and practicing the lyrics on her headphones as they drive to Seattle. They must have called her and flown her in to join the band, hence the title of the film. After the first rehearsal with Floor, the band was all smiles and you could tell it was going to work.
The documentary then jumps back in to January, 2012 taking us to Los Angeles, to the rehearsals for the upcoming North-American tour for IMAGINAERUM. The band spoke with enthusiasm about the upcoming tour which was a full 100 dates shorter than the monster two-year DARK PASSION PLAY World Tour which it was revealed almost split up the band which explained the three year break (2009-2012) from touring.
The next section of the film documents the band hanging out in California, going bringer parks, rehearsing, going to a wine tasting (to select the Nightwish wine) autograph sessions and footage of a 'secret' gig at the Key Club in L.A. billed as the 'Rubber Band of Wolves'. This was the start of the North American leg of the Imaginaerum World Tour but a scaled back version of only four warm-up gigs. The proper tour, with full production, starts in Finland in March.
The next segment is interesting but standard tour footage, backstage, on stage, tourist spots as they visit Russia, the Ukraine, Denmark, Holland, Germany, France and on and on. Next was an overview of the European Festival circuit with loads more footage. It was so weird to have absolutely no footage of Anette. The story then picks up with more footage of the US tour with Floor and then leads into the 3-week UK leg starting in Scotland in November.
Then it was back to Finland for the screening of the IMAGINAERUM movie, which incidentally was filmed in Montreal, Canada. More globe-trotting as December sees the band in Brazil and Argentina with more sightseeing and crazy fans. There were so many neat little moments such as when Tuomas gave the set-list tons quadriplegic fan at the end of the show. A piece of paper that means so little to the band that means so much to a fan, those little moments displayed the human side of the Nightwish machine.
After a quick Christmas break it was off to Australia, New Zealand and Japan, although I would have liked to see more if that your leg as that part was very short. Then suddenly we jump to August of 2013 and back into European summer festival season and of course the inevitable Wacken main-stage Saturday night show, in which SHOWTIME, STORYTIME is captured for all eternity.
I liked the soundtrack. It was well thought out. When they were traveling in the West there was some hints of country music. When they were in California there was surf music, banjo music in the south and so on. It was not all Nightwish, all the time, which would have been the predictable and easy route. There are a couple of brief bonus features, one a bit of a comedy joke Christmas song with lots of still shots from the band sightseeing in South America. It's a silly song and a bit of an in-joke shared with the person who filmed the documentary. The other bonus feature is a surprisingly well-produced version of a drunken table-hockey tournament, complete with graphics, an announcer, interviews with the 'players' and slow-motion replays! The whole segment ran 16 minutes covering all five or six rounds and playoffs!
One thing I have noticed is that there is a tendency for many bands to exaggerate the length of their tours. The narrator said the tour lasted 572 days (1 year, seven months) and the band played over 100 shows in 34 nations. While all technically true the reality is that that breaks down to about one show a week. Of course that is not the case as they have short periods of intense activity on each tour leg but it is not like the band was on the road, working and away from home for 19 months. Even Tuomas said the Australian tour was like a 'holiday disguised as a tour' with only six or seven shows in three weeks.
I've seen a lot of Metal documentaries and PLEASE LEARN THE SETLIST IN 48 HOURS is one of the best! It was passionate, revealing, detailed and interesting all at the dame time. The concert I may watch again, I’d probably just listen to the live version on CD, but I will certainly watch the DVD’s again. SHOWTIME, STORYTIME is another triumph from a band that can do no wrong.