NIGHTWISH / SONATA ARCTICA / DELAIN
Date: 27th February, 2016
Venue: The Rave / Eagles Club
Ticket: $39 (€36) GA / $60 (€55) balcony
Considering the crazy weather with the multiple warnings coming back to back, taking the two-hour drive to Milwaukee looked very much precarious, but on the other hand, NIGHTWISH didn’t include Chicago on the second US tour leg, so we didn't have lots of options left. Fortunately, there was a one-day weather window for our area, so the drive went really smooth and we got at The Rave almost half an hour before the announced show-starting time. Still, we had to endure the long waiting line and the kind of strange decision to let the ones with tickets getting first inside the venue, letting the rest of us bitting out nails thinking if we will make it inside in time to catch DELAIN's set from the beginning.
Upon entering the really nice and very comfortable venue, we saw DELAIN being four songs deep in their setlist, something that meant that I had lost my into-the-photo-pit time. The band was playing “Mother Machine” at that time, and judging by the crowd’s response, everything was going really great. Yeah, comparing this with their previous show in Chicago, I’d say that DELAIN were more energetic, and the addition of the second guitar really helped by adding more Metal oomph in their live sound. Of course, Charlotte captured most of the audience’s attention and was constantly in motion trying to get the most of the given onstage time. Like I said, the sound was fuller and I believe the overall mix was better than the Chicago show, with the keyboards having a strong but not overwhelming presence. Seeing the clapping-along reaction “We Are The Others” got, I was assured that DELAIN had their own fanbase present that night inside The Rave. “You guys are loud!” Charlotte said before “Don’t Let Go” hit the speakers, and seeing the excitement coming from the front-rows, I instantly knew that this show would be tons of fun.
“We had a wonderful time but we have to clear the stage for SONATA ARCTICA and NIGHTWISH”, the band’s frontwoman said, clearly satisfied with how the set went. Yeah, to my eyes, this band is getting better and better and with sets like this one, DELAIN will manage to build a strong US following. So, I can only see the band returning to the US really soon.
SONATA ARCTICA’s Power Metal is definitely not my cup of tea and I think I should blame the too-happy melodies that are also catchy as superglue. At the same time, this catchy factor combined with the high musicianship make SONATA ARCTICA a most appealing band for live shows. Of course, having die-hard fans on the front lines makes things perfect to get at the right mood right before the headliners. So, following a rather longer than expected stage-preparation phase, the band stormed the stage in high mood, immediately capturing almost everyone’s attention inside the venue with the Euro-branded guitar riff that opens “The Wolves Die Young”. Right away, Tony Kakko assumed the driver’s position and was in constant motion, so it didn’t take much to establish a connection with the audience. Yeah, it’s impossible to resist the energy coming from a frontman from whom this seems to come naturally and not being faked. The sound was clear, so the intro part of “My Land” came out awesome and it was super fun watching every band member wearing huge smiles. Ok, there was not enough space, considering the already set NIGHTWISH gear, but still, SONATA ARCTICA were moving around all the time, reflecting the energy that comes from the up-tempo and mood-lifting music.
The extremely confident Tony squatted down, joked a bit by asking the crowd “is there a Tony here?” and then nailed the vocal lines of the Euro Power Metal “FullMoon”. Even though I don’t have SONATA ARCTICA into my listen-to list, I was totally hooked by their performance and I found myself having tons of fun with the super-catchy “I Have A Right” that Tony started singing the first lyrics a capela - just awesome! Yeah, I found myself humming the main melody while waiting for NIGHTWISH to take over the venue. And then the STRATOVARIUS-esque “8th Commandment” increased the temperature to that level that something like a mosh-pit was formed. You see, the young metalheads have clearly missed the first Metal concert festivities lectures and thought that entering the mosh-pit is grapping and pushing around your buddy like he has just kicked your dog... I’d say we need some Metal education right away because this is not what EXODUS are talking about at “Toxic Waltz”. Anyways, the Finns have reached the setlist closer but before getting on with it, Tony shared his grateful feelings about everyone who had come to the show, saying: “Thank you for buying tickets to see the show and see real people making real music for real people. You are keeping music alive”. These words may sound cheesy to some, but they represent the core of Metal music and whoever knows what I am saying, would have been touched. “Don’t Say A Word” dropped the curtain on a high note featuring a sing-along game with some vodka-inspired dancing and chanting. Yeah, this band knows how to have fun and hence how to entertain an audience, so I am tipping my hat to SONATA ARCTICA.
Line of the evening: “Is there something you need? We need some vodka.”
SONATA ARCTICA setlist:
01. “The Wolves Die Young”
02. “My Land”
04. “Last Drop Falls”
05. “I Have A Right”
06. “8th Commandment”
07. “Don't Say A Word”
(click to enlarge)
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, everyone was ready to welcome NIGHTWISH who have been constantly touring with the amazing “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” in their luggage. On top of that, the band seems to be getting better and better with Mrs. Floor Jansen behind the mic who looks more comfortable and more confident after every show. I am not going to make comparisons (after all, I am not a musician) and I will only say this; Floor has such a versatile voice and can sing so many things that Tuomas and the rest of the band will make even more impressive songs in the near future, and mark my words for this.
The stage was ready (loved the glowing starts on the backdrop), so under the sounds of “Roll Tide”, NIGHTWISH with Kai Hahto first started appearing onstage. I wonder how Jukka is doing with his insomnia treatment, and even though I love Kai’s playing, I kind of miss the bandana-wearing drummer. Being at the photo-pit gives me a first hand taste of the electricity coming from the super-excited fans and how this gets amplified the moment the entire band started playing “Shudder Before The Beautiful” with Floor onstage. Yeah, she looked different compared to the previous show in Chicago; like I said, her aura is painted with colors of confidence and singing comfort, meaning that after more than a year performing the new material, she looks and, most importantly, sounds like she owns the songs. And this confidence is being passed to the rest of the band feeling absolutely secure of Floor’s powerful set of pipes, able to go from soprano to a more Metal-lic singing at a breeze, just like changing hats. Sure, one can argue for hours if she can nail both the old and the new material by singing exactly like the original singers but that would be totally unfair because there is no singer who can do equally great standing on both universes (Soprano and Metal). Although, hearing her delivering with such power and occasional harshness “Yours Is An Empty Hope”, one can easily set up a solid case against the previous statement. If you like the sport of nitpicking, then you could hear some changes in the singing parts from the originals, but to me, this is only beneficial to the live aspect of the show. Talking about bridging the old with the new, I think the way how “Bless The Child” sounded is more than enough to convince the most fanatic disbeliever.
I think I’ve hear Tuomas in a documentary saying that these shows are focused more into the music and the atmosphere around them, leaving aside the small talk and this show was no different, and it was only before “My Walden” where Marko had more to say than just a couple of words, joking that “I wondered if you were to show up. Let’s go deep into the bass” before introducing Troy who assumed his position behind Emppu. Yeah, the dancing part with the mandolin melody is amazing and works absolutely fantastic live. As I've said in the previous NIGHTWISH live report, Emppu is most probably the most easy-going guitarist and most likeable face onstage. This guy only stops smiling whenever he sips some beer, and the only complain I can make is that there are less guitar leads in the latest NIGHTWISH albums.
As far as I am concerned, NIGHTWISH have two amazing singers and, of course, I am referring to Marko who sent us goosebumps with the love song “While Your Lips Are Still Red” that came back-to-back with “Élan” which brought back the dancing mood. “So, you know this?” rhetorically asked Marko who had already seen that everyone had already recognized this one. Considering that the venue had a high ceiling, I was expecting lots of echo and too much bass but that was not the case, and everything came powerful and crystal clear. The drum-intro of my favorite “7 Days To The Wolves” (yes, I like the studio version too) came out fantastic and so did the groove-driven “Storytime”. “Of course we like stories” was the response from the audience that came out with one voice as a reply to Floor’s question. Without pausing time, “I Want My Tears Back” stormed our ears (and necks) and I think it came out faster and consequently heavier than the studio version. Of course it was back to dancing-mood during the faster break that features some nice guitar riffs. Yeah, as the setlist was walking back in time, the lead guitar was gaining air-time on “Nemo” and, on top of everything, on “Stargazers”. Oh my, the “Oceanborn” backdrop marked the time for a “golden oldie” as Floor said before letting Emppu to deliver the right-from-the-vaults riff. Please, Tuomas, we need more guitars! Floor put on her soprano hat for this most demanding song and delivered the goods shattering any doubt about her ability to touch upon the older material (no, I won’t compare her with Tarja).
Before we knew it, we reached the last three songs of the set with the amazing “Ghost Love Score” with one more hair-rising performance by Floor who sounded totally unaffected by her singing for more than an hour at that capacity. Can anyone resist at least trying to not join the chorus-backing vocals? By the way, seeing Emppu pointing at Floor as a sign of acknowledging her performance, says more than words about the top-notch health this band possesses. “Last Ride Of The Day” speeded things up and even though it was close to the end of the show, the audience was still dancing and singing without any signs of fatigue, and that’s one of the benefits of having a young on average crowd (by the way, kudos to the Milwaukee fans for creating such a great atmosphere).
Skipping the encore tradition of going off the stage and wait a bit, the intro of the epos “The Greatest Show On Earth” kicked in and sounded awesome. The way the excitement is being built up with the orchestrations makes this song the perfect way to close a live set with a bang and with more goosebumps during the flute-delivered melody. Once again, the song came out way better from the previous time we've seen NIGHTWISH live in Chicago but this is not to be solely credited to the band; the audience joined in the “we were here” part like it was rehearsed and became one of the highlights of this amazing show. Of course, the song was shortened being focused on the last two parts, so the already gathered momentum was maintained and then increased reaching the climax ending with Floor stating “yes, we were here”. By the way, I loved the subtle “Enter Sandman” riff reference after during the last break that was magnified live.
Leaving the venue feeling absolutely content, I felt already excited of what NIGHTWISH will do for their next album and – believe it or not – I was mind-searching of the next chance to attend one more show.
01. “Shudder Before The Beautiful”
02. “Yours Is An Empty Hope”
03. “Bless The Child”
04. “She Is My Sin”
05. “My Walden”
06. “While Your Lips Are Still Red”
08. “Weak Fantasy”
09. “7 Days To The Wolves”
11. “I Want My Tears Back”
14. “Ghost Love Score”
15. “Last Ride Of The Day”
16. “The Greatest Show On Earth
(click to enlarge)