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London, Astoria 16 July 2004

On the evidence of the crowd for this weeks hastily arranged UK tour, Nightwish are definitely becoming a popular act. Given the fact that magazines carrying adverts for the tour only came out days before the gigs happened, it must have been word of mouth and the internet which caused fans both young and old to turn out. From 800 in Bradford on Tuesday, through 1200 in Nottingham on Wed and on to a 2000 sell-out at the London Astoria on the Friday, the message is certainly getting out there. The band have started to receive a bit more coverage in the mainstream rock press and TV channels such as Scuzz have started to show their videos, all of which help to bring in a wider audience.

German Power-Metal act Brainstorm might not have been an obvious choice as support act, but they certainly made the most of the opportunity to show what they were capable of. Unfortunately the very early start, forced by the venues strict 10pm Friday night curfew meant that many of those in the huge queue that snaked around the venue and through Soho Square, didn't get into the venue early enough to see more than a few songs, if that. I believe that they played for 45 minutes in all, though I only heard part of `The Leading' and the two final songs `Highs without Lows' and `Under Lights'.

Their sound was thick and heavy with some similarities to Hall of the Mount King/Gutter Ballet era Savatage, which I love. Frontman Andy Franck worked the crowd very well and the whole band seemed to be having a ball. London crowds don't have a great reputation for being welcoming to support bands, particularly ones that aren't very well known, but these guys got a great response and are apparently very keen to return.

Brainstorm set list:

Shivas Tears / Blind Suffering / Doorway to Survive / Hollow Hideaway / Fornever / The Leading / Highs without Lows / Under Lights

After a short break, Nightwish hit the stage at 8:15pm to a very warm welcome from a packed crowd. They opened with the first two tracks from the new album `Once', namely `Dark Chest of Wonders' and then `Planet Hell'. Both were sensational and even though the crowd's enthusiasm dipped a little for `She is my Sin', it shot up again, as soon as the band entered familiar territory again with `The Phantom of the Opera' (yes the one from Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical), with vocalist Tarja Turunen trading vocals with bassist Marco Heitala. All in all possibly the best part of a gig I've seen this year (apart from Dream Theater). I was amazed just how noisy the crowd was and the band seemed blown away with the great response.

The next song 'Everdream' from previous studio disk `Century Child' is far from being one of my favorites, but it came over quite well on this occasion and was followed by the band's current single `Nemo'. Even though it has nothing to do with the Disney film `Finding Nemo', one wag in the crowd had brought in an inflatable version of `Nemo' the fish, was suddenly launched into the crowd where it bounced around before someone decide to throw it at vocalist Tarja. From that point onward it stayed on stage nestling on top of the monitors underneath Tuomas Holopainen's keyboards.

The band then turned down the intensity a little with `Sleeping Sun'. It's a delightful ballad usually, but this was a slightly heavier version which didn't quite work for me, then vocalist Tarja took a short break leaving the band to perform a cover of Megadeth's `Symphony of Destruction' without her. Bassist Marco took over the vocals and did a good job, but the sound from the rest of the band was a bit disappointing with the mix of 1 guitar and keyboards unable to match the twin guitar sound of the original track.

The huge symphonic sound and choirs of `Bless The Child' heralded the return of Tarja to the stage, but after this excellent tune, the band chose to play the closing track from `Once' `Higher than Hope'. It's a rather dreary tune that did little to animate the crowd and they remained rather inanimate throughout the following `Wishmaster'.

Maybe I've been spoilt by earlier concerts, but this is usually an opportunity for the crowd to sing and chant along to the rousing chorus of

Heartborne, 7th Seeker
In Me the Wishmaster

But it seems that only a small proportion of the crowd knew the song, let alone the lyrics.

Then with barely an hour gone, it was time for a set closer of `Over The Hills and Far Away', which lifted the once again and they were soon chanting for the band to return. The initial encore of `Dead Boy's Poem' was perhaps a strange choice, but it worked extremely well and built up the atmosphere perfectly for the band to bridge into the rousing and heavy `Slaying The Dreamer'.

By this time the band were really rocking once again and the new song (and future single) `Wish I had an Angel' topped things off perfectly.

So a triumphant end to a short tour which must have pleased both the band and their growing UK fanbase. They will be back again in the new year, with a special orchestral gig planned for London. That's a show that shouldn't be missed for sure.

Nightwish Setlist:

Intro / Dark Chest of Wonders / Planet Hell / She Is My Sin / Phantom Of The Opera / Edit: Everdream (Not End Of All Hope) / Nemo / Sleeping Sun / Symphony of Destruction (Megadeth Cover) / Bless The Child / Higher Than Hope / Wishmaster / Over The Hills And Far Away

Dead Boys Poem / Slaying The Dreamer / Wish I Had An Angel

Review: Charlie Farrell

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