The ProgPower audience is more of a collective, a family if you will, forking out large quantities of cash (tickets, hotel, CDs and/or drink) to meet up annually and enjoy music. While neither band were official PP USA guests (both have previously played the two-day event), the majority of the crowd was comprised of early arrivals (a pre-party, if you will), but there was a contingent of NIGHTWISH and KAMELOT fans who had no interest in the main festival itself. Just goes to show the mainstream inroads both have made! In the case of Nightwish, they're now selling out Stateside venues with a capacity of a 1,500, if not three thousand. Still a drop in the bucket, compared to the European stadium shows (we miss out on the fiery pyrotechnics as well), but it makes them a big player on the domestic scene.
Overseas, Kamelot also utilizes a lot of fire. In Atlanta, the band was incendiary, in human form. Force to seat drummer Casey Grillo on the floor (performers') stage left, hair whipping keyboardist Oliver Palotai bookends the opposite side and female back-up singer Elize Ryd perched on an elevated platform in front of guitarist/founder Thom Youngblood, who when not roaming the stage, played hunched over, feet splayed. Much was made of the fact that the Center Stage, in downtown Atlanta, was the first place Tommy Kareik sang with the band, initially as just a guest slot. Now full ingrained and a vibrant part of the band (this guy spends more time in a bent knee crouch than hall of fame catchers), the connection to the audience (here and abroad) is evident. 'Center Of The Universe', 'Eden Echo' and the synthesized orchestral strings, to start 'Sacrimony' (off the forthcoming Silverthorn album). This newbie pummels at the start, before settling into a mid-tempo, apart from the pounding chorus. It led into a short instrumental spotlight for Palotai and Grillo, then on to 'Forever', the mix of blue and white lights creating a steel hue. From the mini-riser at the front of the stage, Karevik directed the crowd in a “whoa whoa” sing-along.
Anette Olzon nearly missed Wednesday night's debut! While the rest of the band flew in a day ahead, stomach problems prevented the Nightwish singer from getting on a plane until Wednesday. Luckily, the airline industry and US immigration gave her no problems, arriving in the venue just a couple of hours before showtime. Bet the guys were sitting on pins and needles until she showed up! Perhaps that's why the setlists remained the same, night-to-night, kicking off with 'Storytime', piper Troy Donockley (who plays an increasing role onstage) seat stage left. Red, sleeveless t-shirt wearing founder, Tuomas Holopainen is at the opposite end, bunkered behind his modest keyboard array.'Wish I Had An Angel' and 'Amaranth', get the crowd singing along, if not thrusting a couple of fists skyward. 'The Siren' leads into the jazz portion of the show, 'Slow, Love, Slow', a showcase for Olzon (in plumed New Orleans haberdashery’s finest) and bassist Marco Hietala, he of the forked beard and wild sense of humor. They are seated on bar stools during the song.
'I Want My Tears Back' enlivens things once more, Donockley rejoining the troupe for the middle portion of the show. Keeping the chapeau, Olzon grabs and tambourine and cheerleads throughout. The back-to-back pairing of 'The Islander' and new/acoustic rendition of one of their biggest hits ('Nemo') sees Olzon seated on the riser, drummer Julius aka Jukka Nevalainen in front of his kit, hand slapping a washboard/rhythm box and the keyboardist sporting an oversized Mad Hatter/Willy Wonka top hat. The bombastic, instrumental 'Last Of The Wilds' was the piper's finale. 'Higher Than Hope' was a tribute to Marc Brueland, the late wheelchair-bound fan who greeted the Finns on the ProgPower stage , back in '03. His mother and sister have remained Nightwish fans and were in the wings during this performance. Olzon claimed 'Over The Hills (And Far Away)', which received one of the largest ovations, was another “tribute, to one of my favorite guitar players”: Gary Moore. Fellow Irishman Donockley joined in. Returning for the encore, it was 'Song Of Myself' and 'Last Ride OF the Day'. During the final song, you could see the camaraderie between Marco, Tuomas and guitarist Emppu Vuorinen, as the keyboardist played his second set of synths (the “Finnish” model faces his bandmates, keys placed vertically), windmilling his hair, almost teasing the smiling, crouching six-stringer. Each laughing at the others. To close, Anette thanked the crowd, especially those that attended both gigs.
A short hang and the band are backing on the tour bus, towards NYC and the historic Beacon Theater (with a rest-stop in Baltimore), before heading to Philadelphia, where BraveWords.com will reconvene with the band.
More photos from Atlanta can be seen here