Nightwish & Beast in Black – Manchester Arena 11th December 2018

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Nightwish & Beast in Black

Manchester Arena

11th December 2018
Review by Gavin Lowrey

This gig marked the final show in Nightwish’s 3 date trek across the UK in support of their “Decades” greatest hits offering.

Being the furthest north of the shows, I’m sure it was anticipated that the date would bring in people from the North East and Scotland, but this turned out not to be the case as it seemed to be a local affair.

Speaking of all things Manchester, the Security at the MEN arena has to be addressed as part of this article.

We are all aware of the horrific events that happened on the night of the 22nd November 2017, following the Airanna Grande show, and that every decent human being must act in a way to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again. However, the attitude shown to myself (as well as other photographers) by the security staff was nothing short of disdainful, churlish and, towards me in particular, abusive.

If what was said to me by the “head of security” was uttered in Scotland, it would be classed as a Sectarian Breach of the Peace and a prosecutable action.

Every venue is a potential terror target, however once you have emptied someone’s cameras and lenses out of their camera box, stripped the foam protection from the box and inspected the photographer’s pen, notepad & glasses, you’d think that all potential security threats would have been identified, but not there.

Overkill is not the way to go and they need to adopt the approach that is used in the Hydro in Glasgow for example, where the photographers cameras & bags are stored at security when not in use and not left outside for any Tom, Dick or Harry to steal.

Due to these security shenanigans akin to boarding a flight to JFK, I missed the support act, Beast in Black, who by all accounts gave a good account of themselves in front of a very pro-Nightwish audience.

Speaking of Nightwish, there’s a definite attitude of “you will pay attention and watch us!”, as all bars and merch stalls are closed 10 minutes before their set starts, and in the intro there’s a “turn off your phones” message akin to being in the cinema

Troy Donockley initiated proceedings with uilleann pipes leading into the opener “Dark Chest of Wonders” and with pyro aplenty we were off!

Vocalist Floor Jansen loves a good headbang and is vocally on top form, not missing even the highest of high notes mere mortals like us can even dream about, and for someone as confident and in control as this, it’s a surprise to hear the Dutch woman in the deathly quiet in between some of the songs to come out with things like “I don’t know what you want me to say, my English isn’t that good!”

Your English is more understandable than mine my dear, and to be honest, you could have read the menu from the (closed) bar and you would have gotten a cheer!

The arena is at best half full and things really don’t start warming up until the band launch into “Elan”, sixth on the setlist.

So, here’s the quandary, venue wise: Nightwish wanted to use a bigger one to accommodate the stage set & pyro, but were never going to sell it out even at a reduced capacity, so why not compromise a few more LEDs and pyro to play to a sold out packed venue? With lots of noise? The Apollo along the road holds 3,500 and can handle the pyro, why not use that?

Tuomas Holopaninen’s multi instrumental skills come to the fore during “Dead Boy’s Poem”, but the only real fever pitch point of the evening is reached when “I Want My Tears Back” is belted out.

Musically, Nightwish are perfect, not a note out of place. Empu Vuorinen’s guitar solos are particularly impressive, but some of the song selections, although good songs, were not real ‘get out of your seat and rock out’ numbers.

The inclusion of more songs from Century’s Child, a rockier album, may have cured that problem as there was definite “pipe & slippers” attitude on display from the crowd, although the inclusion of “The Carpenter” from their first album showed how many long term fans were actually present.

After “Devil and the Deep Dark Ocean”, crowd excitement and participation was just about getting to a point where you could say that you were actually at a rock show, although only just.

“Slaying the Dreamer” and “The Greatest Show on Earth” remind me of the kind of performance that the band can give, with an enthusiastic participating audience.

I’ve seen Nightwish 3 times, all abroad, once in Finland and twice at Hellfest in France, and the shows that I saw then were considerably different to one tonight. Maybe it’s the audience not responding to the vibe, I don’t know.

By all accounts, their London show on this same tour was a smasher, so it could have been the crowd, it could just have been an off day.

For the diehards out there, it was a good show, but for the fans just landing on Planet Nightwish, it may not have you wanting to return.

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