Nightwish + Pain, @ O2 Academy, Birmingham – 6 November 2012


Review by Paul Quinton and photos by Sean Larkin

Not that I am making any assertions, you understand, but it would be fascinating to compare the speed of ticket sales for this show before and after the announcement that Annette Olzon had left the band, midway through a series of dates in America, to be replaced by ReVamp singer Floor Jansen. It’s probably fair to say that there were mixed feelings about Annette’s time in the band, following the unceremonious ousting of Tarja Turenen, and although the two albums recorded since, ‘Dark Passion Play’ and ‘Imaginaerum,’ are by no means bad albums, for a lot of people, Annette never really got to grips with the role, seemed to struggle with the older songs and lacked confidence on stage. Either way, the Academy was sold out for tonight, and when the doors opened, there was a long queue outside the venue.

Pain seem to be the regular support whenever Nightwish visit these shores and at the Academy they played a lively 45-minute set, although their mix of metal with techno and industrial influences did get a little samey toward the end, with very little variation in the riffage or the tempo. There were plenty of heads nodding, and they got a very decent response from a venue that was getting fuller all the time, but there seemed to be something lacking in making the set really catch fire.

There were rumours all over the ‘Net that Nightwish radically altered their set list when Floor Jansen came on board, as the feeling was that she would be more able to handle the older songs than Annette Olzon was and it was interesting that tonight they played more songs from Tarja’s last album with the band, ‘Once’, than from ‘Imaginaerum’, even though this was billed as the ‘Imaginaerum’ tour. After some orchestral intro music, that maybe went on a little too long, the band entered one by one, each member getting a huge cheer, and yes, especially Floor Jansen, began the set with the opener from ‘Imaginaerum’, ‘Storytime’, and any doubts about bringing Floor into the fold vanished almost immediately. Not only is she a vocal powerhouse, able to sing both the rockier or symphonic numbers with apparent ease, she also has a powerful and attractive stage presence. Following ‘Storytime’, the band went straight into ‘Dark Chest of Wonders’ and then ‘I Wish I Had An Angel’, both from ‘Once’, and she absolutely nailed both songs, dovetailing perfectly with Marco Hietala’s voice on ‘…Angel’. There were regular shouts from the crowd of ‘Give her a job!’ and ‘Sign her up!’ which pretty much summed up how well the crowd thought she was doing.

After that the gig went from strength to strength. If the vocals seemed to be a little low in the mix, and by all accounts that was the case in most parts of the hall, it did little to spoil the show. The band played excellently and while the light show and staging were a little low key compared to the extravaganza Within Temptation had brought to the Academy in 2011, the sheer power of the music made such considerations irrelevant. Midway through the show, the band slowed things down, introducing Troy Donockley to play Uilleann pipes on a three song acoustic set, including ‘Last of The Wilds’ and ‘The Islander’ from ‘Dark Passion Play’ and, perhaps surprisingly, ‘Nemo’. Sometimes these acoustic interludes have the effect of breaking up the momentum of the show, but that wasn’t the case tonight, the superb reading of ‘The Islander’ and the audience participation on ‘Nemo’ only served to maintain the great atmosphere of the show.

For all that the band seem to have more confidence in the Tarja-era songs with the new singer, it was interesting that only two songs were from the pre-‘Once’ albums, and one of those was the cover of Gary Moore’s ‘Over The Hills and Far Away’, which was surprising. On the other hand, the other older song was a tremendous ‘Everdream,’  which, along with a magnificent ‘Ghost Love Score’ brought the show to an absolute high. Concluding the show with ‘Last Ride of The Day’, there were no encores, the band left the stage as they entered, one by one, before returning to take a bow and an absolutely thunderous response from the crowd, the perfect end to a memorable show.

What the future holds for the band remains to be seen. There’s no doubt that Floor Jansen is a perfect fit, and judging by the heartfelt speech of thanks she gave to the rest of the band, she wouldn’t at all mind the gig being a permanent one, but whether this suits the future direction of the band, who knows? But I can think of nearly 3000 people who think they would be daft not to bring her in permanently.

Nightwish set list: Storytime, Dark Chest of Wonders, I Wish I Had An Angel, Amaranth, The Siren, Slow, Love, Slow, I Want My Tears Back, The Islander, Nemo, Last of The Wilds, Planet Hell, Ghost River, Everdream, Over The Hills and Far Away, Ghost Love Score, Last Ride of The Day

And you can see more shots from the show here:


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