NIGHTWISH - Kick Off Tour In New Jersey

February 20, 2016, 2 years ago

Mark Gromen

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Hard to believe, but 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of Tuomas Holopainen getting a crazy idea: that a symphonic laced, keyboard driven outfit from Finland could rule the world. While it has taken most of those twenty years to finally make inroads here in North America, overseas, Nightwish are certified stars, playing the biggest stages around the globe. Almost as a throwback, the Finns chose to open the latest leg of a massive international trek at the Starland Ballroom, a club show that certainly harkens to early in their career. Hell, the last couple of times through the States, they've played rooms that are two to three times bigger (and will elsewhere on this run). However, this was a back to the roots show, minus all the props a stadium headliner employs (apart from a backdrop sporting album artwork). No matter, it still rocked!

Without a NYC, Philly, DC or Baltimore show on this run, all mid-Atlantic fans converged on Sayerville, NJ. Sardines have the luxury of more space than a sold out Starland, especially those near the stage, wishing to improve on the sight lines that the two wing bars don't afford. Probably enjoyed the warmth of this "coziness," as the club announcing 6:30 doors, yet some of those who weren't across the street, having a beverage with the VFW crowd, had to wait until after 9 PM, in freezing temps, to get inside. Under cover of darkness, as the voiceover that greets 'Shudder Before The Beautiful' echoed from the speaker, Holopainen, in stylish suit jacket, led his troops onstage, then through a set heavy on the material since Floor Jansen joined the band, In fact, 'Ever Dream' and 'She Is My Sin', appearing early in the evening, alongside 'Stargazers' would be the only songs I'd classify as classic Nightwish, coming off the initial four releases. Later, virtually fan sung 'Nemo' (making a return to the live show) and 'Ghost Love Score' rounded out the Tarja Turunen era. Jansen, in something of a caped super hero / white bondage strapped getup (the super hero comparison made all the more relevant by her hair continuously billowing in the electric fan-produced breeze), once again provided adroit at handling all the "voices" necessary in the band's varied repertoire, especially the aforementioned 'Stargazers'. When not singing, she waltzes around the stage, cheerleads or headbangs madly, depending on what the song calls for.    

Know they have to juggle the music, as much for themselves, as to keep it fresh for fans who pay to see successive tours, but six tracks off last year's Endless Forms Most Beautiful, a trio from its Imaginaerum predecessor and the Holopainen penned/non-album track 'While Your Lips Are Still Red' (which serves as a showpiece for bassist Marco Hietala's singing), this was geared towards latecomers in the American audience. No 'Amaranth', 'Wish I Had An Angel', nor 'The Islander'. Judging from the frantic reaction to 'Storytime', seem to know their audience. When not purple, deep blue, or other dark colors, the stage would erupt in a lightning storm of white strobes. Guitarist Emppu Vuorinen usually keeps to himself, stage left, but on occasion, wander to see his keyboardist friend. During the yellow tinged 'My Walden', with Hietala on double neck bass and seated piper Troy Donockley, the diminutive blonde stringbender, inverts his instrument (neck planted vertically on the stage) and chin on hands, rests his head on the bottom rim of his guitar.

Orange tinged to start, and bombarded by strobes throughout, 'She Is My Sin' sees Jansen briefly move to Holopainen's bank of three keyboards. She coaxes the audience to clap along and sing the chorus of 'Elan' and pinsheels her hair on the brief drum solo (highlighted by omnipresent strobes) introduced 'Weak Fantasy', which also sees Donockley drop the pipes, in favor of a mandolin. '7 Days To The Wolves' begins with the five boys onstage, Floor emerging from the darkness. By 'Last Ride Of The Day', Holopainen has lost the jacket, now in shirt sleeves. They end with Chapters 2 & 3 from the mammoth length 'Greatest Show On Earth', pulsating strobes and Jansen adopting a robotic monotone, at the start.

Don't know about the hyperbole, but Nightwish certainly are one of the best touring acts on Earth, with or without big staging, it's the music that resonates.

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