Nightwish @ Aragon Ballroom, Chicago (US)

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NIGHTWISH - 'Decades World Tour'

Date: 31st March, 2018
Venue: Aragon Ballroom
Ticket: $55 / €45
Promoter: n/a


NIGHTWISH is an important band in the Metal scene for practically shaping the Symphonic Metal genre with a female soprano singer. And for the same reason, seeing Tarja leaving the band (and all the alleged drama that followed) was a large pill for the fans to swallow. But NIGHTWISH found a way to move along, and after a bit more drama leading to the split with Anette Olzon, the Finnish band settled with Floor Jansen behind the mic. So, having this timeline in mind, choosing to do a ‘Decades World Tour’ seemed absolutely appropriate to give the new (and definitely young) fans the chance to hear live how NIGHTWISH have musically progressed and how the song-writing has evolved throughout the years.

There was no supporting band, and considering it was an ‘all-ages’ show, it was no big deal as it would have been really hard to brave the evening commute to be there on time to catch the opener. Aragon Ballroom looked nicely filled with mainly young faces who looked really excited for the show and already had in hand the “Decades” double CD that was given to everyone entering the venue. This was a smart move from the band and a better deal for the fans who had something to take away after the show and something to ease a bit the price-y tickets.

The excitement got a loud voice the moment the lights went out and the huge screen on the back of the stage started giving ‘instructions’ for the show and explaining the benefits of not watching the show through the tiny screen of your smartphone. This may sound silly to some, but seeing the small number of cell phones filming the intro, proved that the young ears did listen. After all, we are living on the ‘online’ days where sharing / posting / liking / tweeting / whatever-ing has become second nature for most of us. The crowd joined in during the 10-sec countdown but there was not an explosive intro; Troy Donockley showed up and took his spot on stage-right and immediately calmed the spirits with his melodies touching upon the amazing “Swanheart”. The blood started boiling with the first tunes of “End Of All Hope”. Floor took her spot at the center of the stage and with a huge smile started singing this vocal-demanding setlist opener. The volume was a bit lower than I was expecting, although there maybe a decibels-restriction for all-ages shows that I am not aware of. However, it was crystal clear and one could hear everything, and those layers that make NIGHTWISH so unique. “Thank you, Chicago! What a start!”, said Floor and without wasting time, moved to the super-hit and groovy “Wish I Had An Angel”. Kai Hahto is still behind the drum-kit and this unfortunately means that Jukka Nevalainen has not yet overcome his insomnia issues.

The Aragon stage is huge, but considering that NIGHTWISH has a six-piece lineup, one would expect to not have empty spaces or at least having the impression thereof. But, since there was a program to follow with the screen projections and performing the songs to the T was a top priority, there was minimal movement onstage. Emppu and Marco did most of the moving around, at least for the first songs that demanded Floor’s full attention. Emppu was the classic Emppu with a constant smile on his face, always teasing and playing with the crowd. He is so fun to watch and also having so many old(er) songs on the set, we got more guitar time from him. Yeah, in the first NIGHTWISH albums, the guitars are louder and had a bigger role as opposed to nowadays where the orchestrations have the lion’s share on the mix. Troy introduced the next one with his flute laying down the main melody of “Come Cover Me”. The deeper the band went into the setlist, the more relaxed Floor looked but this is totally understandable because these songs were written with a soprano singer behind the mic. Still, Floor sang these oldies with grace, proving once more that NIGHTWISH have a versatile singer who can sing almost the entire catalogue. “Thank you, it is so good to be back. I see seniors and children in the crowd”, said Floor pointing out that Metal is ageless and reminding to some of us that we are not getting any younger… As I said, the guitars are louder in the old albums, so “Gethsemane” came out amazing and it worth to point out that in times Troy was also contributing in the guitars, making the sound fuller and heavier. By the way, it felt absolutely justified hearing the loud scream from the audience after Emppu’s solo. The cheering got louder during the keyboard intro for “Élan” that seemed to get more fans from the audience involved. The truth is, and this is the downside of such shows where there is a program to follow, that compared to previous NIGHTWISH shows, the live feeling was a bit lost. It was a well-designed show and for that reason, some of the spontaneity had to be sacrificed.

If you are not willing to take my word for how a versatile singer Floor is, then you should check with your own ears how great she sounded on “Dead Boy's Poem”. There is no room for (silly) comparisons between her and Tarja, simply because they are two way-different singers. However, being able to deliver these songs live, gives the band additional degrees of freedom, and from a fan’s perspective, the chance to see songs from all the albums making it into the setlist. Marco got his bass / guitar compo for “Elvenjig” which slowed things down (and gave Floor time for a breather), before getting back to business with the fast-paced “Elvenpath” which is borderline Power Metal with the double-bass drum action.

The first climax of the set and a proof that the majority of the fans have learned NIGHTWISH from the recent albums happened with “I Want My Tears Back”. Indeed, Floor’s invitation to dance / jump along saw many fans joining in, bringing along some of the spontaneity I missed throughout the night. Ok, choosing “The Carpenter” as the follow-up was not the best move, as it killed the moment which Floor had worked so hard to build, although my personal favorite and riff-based “Kingslayer” restored it.

After the heavy “Devil & The Deep Dark Ocean” with Marco on the lead singing, it was time for the hit “Nemo” and the amazing “Slaying The Dreamer” with its headbanging guitar-driven intro. Even though I consider the video projections a bit distracting in some cases, I cannot but give credit for the firey dance shown at the back screen during the song’s heavy part, with a guy doing martial arts stuff with lots of flames involved. This one saw the band leaving the stage but only for a couple of minutes… Yeah, the encore break was so short that did not give the chance for the audience to start demanding “one more song”. Anyways, it is not hard to find what the band is playing during these YouTube-infested days, so why bother screaming if they will come onstage eventually…

The first three parts of the amazing “The Greatest Show On Earth” epos took us on an awesome audio and visual trip; videos showing nature’s beauty switched places with pictures of destruction, underlining how eager humans are to destroy and turn this planet into ashes. By the way, it was fun hearing Marco and Troy doing those animal sounds and I think I saw Floor smiling too. The impossible-not-to-sing-along “Ghost Love Score” was the last song of the night and dropped the curtain on a high note, with Floor delivering those vocalisms close to the end with an impressive power, earning a loud cheer as a sign of approval (not that she needs one).

There are things to complain about, like the ticket price tag and how this feels more like a show and less like a Metal concert, but I think the good things flip the scales as it is a great vehicle for the young fanbase (especially in the US) to get a crash course of NIGHTWISH and have a proper introduction to the Tarja era which is so important for the band’s history. This means that you have to have clear expectations before going to this show as to not get disappointed.

NIGHTWISH setlist:

01. “End Of All Hope”
02. “Wish I Had An Angel”
03. “10th Man Down”
04. “Come Cover Me”
05. “Gethsemane”
06. “Élan”
07. “Sacrament Of Wilderness”
08. “Deep Silent Complete”
09. “Dead Boy's Poem”
10. “Elvenjig”
11. “Elvenpath”
12. “I Want My Tears Back”
13. “The Carpenter”
14. “The Kinslayer”
15. “Devil & The Deep Dark Ocean”
16. “Nemo”
17. “Slaying The Dreamer”
18. “The Greatest Show On Earth”
19. “Ghost Love Score”

NIGHTWISH

Nightwish @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Nightwish @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Nightwish @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Nightwish @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Nightwish @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Nightwish @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Nightwish @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Nightwish @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Nightwish @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Nightwish @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Nightwish @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Nightwish @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Nightwish @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Nightwish @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Nightwish @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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