Touring Across This Planet Hell – Nightwish in Seattle

Spread the metal:

Sunday, September 5th 2004
Graceland, Seattle, WA

Review & Live Pics by Aryn

September 5th, 4:37pm

“This was the tour that I was anticipating the most for this year because, you know, we’ve never been here before. Everything is new, we have nothing except to win here you know because all that we had here before was this tour was kind of like a cult following so there wasn’t that much pressure. The tour has been awesome, especially the past reactions which has been overwhelming because we never knew we had so much fans here and that they would react like this to our music. So it has been the most positive suprise of the year.”

So Tuomas Holopainen told me shortly after soundcheck before the final show of Nightwish’s first North American tour. I had been invited inside the venue by him to wait for my opportunity to sit down with him for a few minutes, during the course of which I got a rare opportunity to watch Tuomas and the boys from Nightwish soundcheck at Graceland. Graceland is a dingy, spartan venue tucked away in a forgotten corner of Seattle that leaves you wondering “Why is Nightwish playing here?”. The just as I thought “Why is Blind Guardian playing here?” when I saw the legendary German power metal gods two years ago. It’s the sort of place you would expect to see in a movie as a punk club, seats with torn upholstery, various stickers from all the different bands who had toured through littering every square inch of wall. There was the ever present stench of dried sweat and acrid smoke. It is the sort of place whose walls have many stories of drunken rock and roll debauchery, but not necessarily the sort of place you want to see a high class, high caliber band such as Nightwish. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

September 5th, 12:20pm

I arrived at the train station early in the afternoon of September 5th, looking at my watch I realized it was some time before the show so I decided to take a walk. I had been to Graceland only once before, but I had been given a ride so I had no clue as to where the venue was. My plan was to simply call a cab when the time came and get a ride again. At the time there was another large annual music fest going on in Seattle, so when I picked up a couple different newspapers to see if there were any blurbs about the Nightwish concert I wasn’t terribly suprised (but disappointed) not to see anything more then a listing of when and where it was. How could such an event as Nightwish, a band with numerous gold and platinum albums to their name not get as much as a “Hey you metalheads, go check out this show?” in an alternative weekly? I wandered the hilly unknown streets of Seattle, enjoying the sights and sounds and wondering where the hell I was in relation to the venue I was to be at in a matter of time. After about 90 minutes of wandering around I turned a corner that led through an underpass bordering the interstate and to my suprise I saw a sign with the words “Graceland”. Through sheer force of wanderlust, I had manage to happenstance my way upon the venue which the show was going to be at. Yes, I thought, fate is being kind to me today.

Sitting outside the venue in two folding chairs were two fellows, apparently lining up even though the show was still over 6 hours away. They were the only people there, no bands, no security, just one guy making sure no one walked in and tried to hide somewhere backstage to ambush the bands when they did arrive. I introduced myself to the two, they told me their names were John and Drew. And apparently, they had been following Nightwish around the country since Arizona.

“This will be our fifth concert, we drove all the way here from San Fransisco.” John told me.

Devoted, to say the least. I placed my bag containing my laptop and other essentials down and struck up a conversation about their experiences on tour hanging out and drinking with Lullacry, life, and metal in general. I had asked them what their favorite show was that they had been to thus far and they said without hesitation “Anaheim, that show was amazing and the crowd was going mad with energy.”


September 5th, 4:45pm

“All of the shows we have played have been amazing, but the most memorable would probably be Anahaim. There was just something special about playing at Disneyland that I’ll never forget.” Tuomas says as we are sitting in some small, even more dingy room backstage at the already dingy venue. I almost feel bad that a band that are as revered in some parts of Europe as Nightwish are relocated to filthy small rock clubs here in America. But at the same time I’m highly looking forward to seeing them perform in such an intimate, if smelly, environment later on.


September 5th, 6:45pm

Having no reason to go outside, I remained in the venue as the show was slowly being set up. Mostly taking notes on my laptop or chatting with the road crew or whoever happened to be around at the moment. At one point I decided to watch a couple of the Nightwish videos which I had stored on my computer, headphones wrapped tightly around my head I was more or less oblivious to what was going on around me as I watched the promotional clip for the song “Sacrament Of Wilderness” off their second album OCEANBORN. I hear a soft voice behind my shoulder exclaim something so I push one earphone aside to see what was going on.

“No! Not that video! Haha, I can’t even watch that, we were all in the military at the time so we had to have short hair.” Tuomas laughs behind me, looking at disbelief at the images of a very young Nightwish in various live clips that comprise the video.

“You all were in the military?” I said.

“Yes, in Finland you have to join the military for like, 6 months. It’s a requirement.” Tuomas laughs, his eyes seemingly glued to the laptop LCD as if he were viewing a car crash.

“Wow, I never knew that. Like, at a certain age?” I ask, genuinly curious.

“I believe it’s somewhere between 18 and 28 you MUST join the military for a time.” Tuomas says “Haha, oh man, I can’t even watch that anymore” he laughs and walks off to whatever he was doing in the first place.


September 5th, 4:48pm

“I just went out and bought like, five new soundtracks like a week ago. The soundtrack for “King Arthur”, is awesome, Hanz Zimmer is the man. I also bought the soundtrack of “The Day After Tomorrow” which is also really good. Right before the show we also like to channel a little bit, listen to Pantera maybe, that’s the best possible war music we could have. I’m totally also into The Dark Tower series by Stephen King I think it’s his best work and I’m really waiting for the last part which is coming out the 21st of September. And at the moment I’m reading Stephen King “Hearts In Atlantis”, you know me Marco and Jukka are really all Science Fiction and Fantasy/Horror freaks.” Tuomas says, in response to my query about what keeps them occupied on the long drives across America.

“You even specifically mention locations and names from the Dragonlance series in the song “Wishmaster”. Which I always got a kick out of myself. Something me and my friends were discussing the other night during some drunken geeky revelry was: Who would win in a fight? Raistlin Majere, or Gandalf? What do you think?” I ask.

“Ooh, I would go for Gandalf. I mean, there’s no topping Gandalf. It’s going to be a bad fight though.” he responds without a second thought.

“But Raistlin defeated the gods themselves in battle, Gandalf is powerful but Raistlin is all-powerful.” I say, in yet another moment of geeky revelry.

“Yeah, but Gandalf beat a Balrog. I mean, the balrog is enough to beat Melkor who makes Takhisis look like Tasslehoff” he laughs.

Realizing the absurdly dorkish tone our conversation has taken I try to steer it back to matters concerning Nightwish.

“You guys have recorded your past two major tours for DVD release, have there been any cameras toted along with your first American jaunt?” I ask.

“No, no cameras on this tour. What we are hoping to do, but this is still in the very early planning stages, is when we get back to Finland to play a couple shows with a full orchestra and choir. I mean, a large production like that will take a while to set up, but we have it on the horizon. Also, we would have the Indian on our album [who plays flute and does a spoken word bit on the track “Creek Mary’s Blood” off ONCE]. This we would record for a DVD.” Tuomas responds.

I reel at the thought of being able to see Nightwish with a full orchestra and choir.


September 5th, 6:50pm

The doors are about to be opened, I peek my head out to see if much of a crowd has gathered and am happy to see that there is clearly a line that disappears as the road curves in the distance. I patiently wait for the bar to open so I can have a pint and get ready for the show since my bag with all it’s expensive contents is safely stowed. I walk up to the now-assembled merchandise booth to see if theres any wares that I may like. Slim pickings, but this is the last show of the tour. They don’t really have any shirt designs I like that much so I pass on any merchandise figuring I can just order it from the website later.


September 5th, 4:55pm

“There’s everything, you know, there’s Nightwish beer, Nightwish condoms, there’s all sorts of things like Nightwish pillows and all the sort of stuff” Tuomas says about the merchandising machine that Nightwish is in their native Finland

“None of that probably made it here with you guys on tour though, huh?” I ask, hoping to walk away from the show with a Nightwish condom.

“No, I don’t believe so, just shirts. Couldn’t fit all the things we have marketed in the entire bus let alone the equipment trailer!” Tuomas laughs.


September 5th, 7:05pm

Doors open, people flood in, the bar opens. I quickly adjourn to the bar to get a pint or four of Black Butte Porter before the first band (Lullacry) starts. The bar portion of the venue remains suprisingly un-filled.


September 5th, 7:50pm

I walk out of the bar, feeling warm inside from the dark brew and ready for the show. This is when I realize why the bar didn’t have many people in it, it would seem that the majority of the people at this show aren’t even 21 yet. Feeling like a fogey suddenly I undertake the unenviable task of trying to worm my way through the crowd to be in a good enough position to take photos. I secure about the best spot I’m going to get as it seems the people at the front probably have been there since the moment they walked through the doors. I spot John and Drew against the rail and see they have the same VIP passes that I have stuck to their shirts.

“The guys from Lullacry gave them to us, they said that we’ve followed them around the country it’s the least they could do for us.” John says.


September 5th, 8:03pm

Lights go down, house music turns off. Lullacry takes the stage. The packed crowd lets out a cathartic cheer as the intro music begins and singer Tanja steps upon the stage. I wasn’t terribly familiar with this band going into the show, having only heard a couple MP3’s that I had found on their labels website, but they truely did little justice to the live show. Their slightly dark pop-metal sound combined with the girlish vocals and confrontational lyrics seemed aimed directly at the teenage girls in the crowd. And they responded in kind.

“Sell your soul to someone else
You fool
Well, goddamn give my soul a rest
Damn you
Sell your soul to someone else
You fool
Well, temptation loves you anyway
Damn you”

Tanja sings to the crowd, emphasizing each “damn” with a fish pump and a headbang. This is the sort of fun, no agenda, party metal that is difficult to find much of a problem with. The band is very energetic, and little complaints can be made. Suprisingly as I look around me I see many young girls passionatly singing along with Tanja and company, she has a sort of “Girl Power” stage presence that is not at all lost on the myriad of younger females in the crowd. At least they’re getting it from Lullacry instead of Xtina Aguillera. Between songs, a guy wearing a Slipknot shirt jokes about the bands thick accents and makes a lude remark about Tanja’s boddice. A girl standing right next to him about 1/3 his size slaps him in the face. If that’s what people get out watching them then “Girl Power” indeed.


September 5th, 8:57pm

Lullacry finish their set, take their bows to a highly satisfied crowd and exit the stage. Lights come up, music comes on and I try to worm my way further up the crowd while people disperse a bit between sets. Not much luck.


September 5th, 9:22pm

House music fades, lights go down. A thunderous roar erupts from the crowd, a fellow behind me grabs my shoulders and jumps up and down exclaiming “Holy shit! Holy shit!” as though he were in utter disbelief that he was about to see Nightwish perform. Silence, no intro music, just silence and the sound of the crowd becoming more and more frenzied. Quickly a chant breaks out through the sardine-packed crowd “Night-wish, Night-wish, Night-wish” everyone screams in unison. It’s an infectious energy that is impossible to deny. My fists in the air I scream along with the crowd. Over the speakers then the twinkly sound of a keyboard and a boy’s voice saying “Once, I had a dream.. signifying the beginning of Nightwish’s first song of the evening “Dark Chest Of Wonders” plays over the speakers. A cataclysmic clash of screams and shouts comes from the crowd in a single voice as the lights flash on and the guitars and drums burst into the frenzied introduction to the first song off the new album ONCE. Emppu and Tuomas and Jukka and Marco burst onto the stage from the shadows and look at the crowd with a seeming sense of wonder and gigantic smiles on their faces. Flash bulbs pop and fists pump in unison as the band pounds through the introduction to the song. Then a brief pause, and the sound of a choral chant hits as the time has come for Tarja to take her place in the spotlight.

For all the crowd had screamed itself out in exponentially louder bursts one final explosion of clamor and din in nuclear proportions as Tarja Turunen graces the stage. Her long dark hair blowing perpetually behind her flapping along with her red satin overcoat, she sings with the perfection of a true proffesional. I had read previously that others had been disappointed with Nightwish performances, saying that her voice was not as powerful live and she didn’t hit all the notes. I can say without fear of hyperbole today that this was all complete bullshit. I have never in my life heard a more spot on vocal performance, and don’t believe I ever shall again. The thunderous bombast of “Dark Chest Of Wonders” continues without fail and I see the people around me, some shouting, most with their fists in the air, some with their eyes closed in ecstacy and mouthing the words to the songs that obviously mean so much to them.

The energy in the crowd is one that I’ve never felt before, as it becomes quite obvious that every last person there not only loves this band, but is in-love with this band. As the song comes to a pounding conclusion once again the crowd does it’s best to top it’s last outburst. The choral strains of “Planet Hell” soon come booming from the bass bins and once again Nightwish unleash an onslaught of sonic perfection to form, anyone who says Nightwish has no “power” or “heavyness” has obviously never seen them live. It’s rare that a band as they become more and more symphonic retain much of their previous “heavyness” let alone actually get heavier, and Nightwish did that in scores on the new album. And live, it’s heart-rending. It crushes you. The light and airy strings played by Tuomas on his myriad keyboards lift you up to the stratosphere as the lead balloon guitar and bass attack of Emppu and Marco drag you down to the depths of hell and you never want it to stop.

The band then lets the crowd take a breather with the ballad “Nemo”, which live still comes across as quite heavy and fast. But not the bruising storm of the songs previous. The crowd feeds the band enough energy to power the entire city of Seattle for weeks and the band returns it in spades. A synergistic synchronicity unlike any I have witnessed before, I have never seen a band so return the energy that a crowd has given them. Within two songs the members were as drenched in sweat as any of us in the crowd. With the exception of the untouchable Tarja who is standing in front of a fan.

Time loses meaning, as they go through songs spanning their whole career in a 90+ minute set that rides like the waves of the oceans. Ebb and flow, buildup and release. The ballads are timed perfectly throughout the set to give the crowd a chance to cool down lest they burn out. From “Wishmaster” to “Phantom Of The Opera” to “Come Cover Me” to “The Siren” to “End Of All Hope” to “Bless The Child” and so many more it is apropos to the crowds wants and needs, every song coming as a suprise even if you know every song they are playing on tour. Even when Tarja took her stage break and Marco took the mic to introduce the band and every last member of the road crew he had the crowd in his hand. He spoke to the crowd as if he were speaking to a single person, he introduced us to Ewo, the tour manager, Sean, the sound man behind the boards, and Marcelo whom he introduced as “Tarja’s personal manager, and he manages much more then just her person.” with a smile and a nudge. Everyone laughs as most of us know that Marcelo is also Tarja’s husband. This is all of course before the superior-to-the-original cover that Nightwish does of Megadeth’s “Symphony Of Destruction” with Marco on vocals.

Eventually Tarja rejoins the group on stage, sans red satin overcoat, and the second half of the show begins. Through everything the energy of the crowd never subsists, even as the lights go down from the “final” song and the crowd screams and chants for the inevitable encore no one has had enough. Nightwish close the show with what I imagine will be their first American single “Wish I Had An Angel” that has a very fun live energy even if it has a goofy techno beat.

Tuomas had previously told me that this is his favorite song to play now, and likely forever will be. I can understand why, after all the tides of a Nightwish set what better to close off the show then a fun song with a silly beat about getting drunk and screwing someone you hardly know. The band takes their bows, with ever present huge smiles upon their faces, shake the hands of those in the front, pass out guitar picks, drumsticks, setlists, anything that someone can take away from the concert other then memories. The house lights come up as the sounds of the Finnish-language track “Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan” drift through the speakers, dazed and confused the sweat-covered crowd do their best to gather their wits to disperse into the street outside to catch some air and speak of what they just witnessed. I have been to many great shows in my life, and as I arrived at the Graceland in Seattle on the afternoon September 5th the spot for best show I had ever seen was a two way tie between Blind Guardian at the same venue, and Iron Maiden at the Tacoma dome not far from it. Walking out of the Graceland on the evening of September 5th the number one spot had easily been usurped by Nightwish. Leaving Hansi and Bruce to fight it out for number two, sorry guys.

“This was the tour that I was anticipating the most for this year because, you know, we’ve never been here before. Everything is new, we have nothing except to win here you know because all that we had here before was this tour was kind of like a cult following so there wasn’t that much pressure. The tour has been awesome, especially the past reactions which has been overwhelming because we never knew we had so much fans here and that they would react like this to our music. So it has been the most positive suprise of the year.”

– Tuomas Holopainen, September 5th 2004, couldn’t have said it better myself.