Concert Reviews

Nightwish / Beast In Black Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     December 25, 2018    
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Nightwish / Beast In Black - Wembley SSE Arena, London (UK) - 08 December 2018

I was unable to attend Nightwish's sold-out Wembley show at the end of 2015 which I was truly gutted about, not only because it was a landmark show for the group but also because it was recorded. Therefore, when the new UK dates were announced for the end of 2018, with another date at Wembley, there was no way I was going to miss out twice. On a cold and damp December evening, I made my way to London with high expectations of a great night.

The support act for this evening was Beast In Black. For those unfamiliar with the name, Beast In Black is the new-ish band of Anton Kabanen who originally founded Battle Beast. He started the group after he split from Battle Beast in 2015, and if you know of or like his former band, you will have a good idea of what Beast In Black have to offer (albeit with one major difference in that the new act is male-fronted). I have been a huge fan of Battle Beast for years and I have to say, Kabanen's new outfit didn't disappoint. They performed a nine-song set (all of which came from their 'Berserker' debut) that contained everything you would have expected; driving riffs, thundering rhythms, soaring vocals, lots of eighties-influenced keyboards and a whole load of "Meeeetaaaaalllll". Vocalist Yannis Papadopoulos was a very entertaining front-man who bounced around a lot, repeatedly jumped off the drum rise and encouraged (plus entertained) the crowd often; he could certainly also shriek the word "Metal" very loudly! There was a nice moment during the slower 'Ghost In The Rain' where Papadopoulos had the audience turn on the lights on their phones and it created a nice atmosphere.

Other tracks that were worthy of mention included 'Blood Of A Lion' and set closer 'End Of The World'. My personal highlights were 'Crazy, Mad, Insane' with its Techno embellishments and rather entertaining band performance (that included the musicians wearing glasses and acting like robots as Papadopoulos worked around them) and the cracking 'Blind And Frozen'. Beast In Black opened to a somewhat surprisingly smallish audience but this built as their set went along and they were pretty well-received, plus got a good cheer and applause at the end. As good as their set was, there were two negatives. Firstly, they used Judas Priest's 'NightCrawler' as an opening intro, and while there is nothing wrong with this (Thunder use AC/DC's 'Thunderstruck' to immense effect), I think the fact they played the whole six or so minutes of it was a bit too much; I felt it dragged a bit having built up some anticipation. Secondly, Papadopoulos constantly left the stage during the performance and headed backstage on multiple occasions; I think he did it for every song, and if not, it was certainly the majority of them. I am not entirely sure why he did this, maybe it was to give the musicians their moment in the spotlight, maybe it was because he wasn't feeling well for this show (it didn't show on stage if he wasn't feeling well) or maybe it was for another reason, but whatever it was, it did become somewhat distracting and was noticed by others aside from me. I think it is something that needs to be considered depending on what the reason was. Overall, a fine support slot that warmed the crowd up nicely and I would suspect they made some new fans with this show.

As the time for Nightwish to appear on stage approached, the venue had significantly filled and it was pretty busy out on the concourse regardless of why you might have stepped out there. Right on time, the lights went out and the screens fired up. I have to mention that there was a wonderful moment in the opening where a big no-phone message was displayed and mentioned over the PA. I think this was a great idea and though I am sure some took a few bits of footage as I did for review purposes, there did seem to be less of it than normal; that is bar one person who actually had their phone up in the air on a selfie stick (at the beginning at least just after the message)... I mean really?! Nightwish opened with just Troy Donockley on his perch and pipes then the show exploded as they tore into 'Dark Chest Of Wonders', and from that point onwards, the group never looked back.

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The nineteen-song set was made up of mostly the tracks that were selected for the 'Decades' album (fifteen) with a few swaps here and there. True to the band's word (as was the case with the album) the songs selected came from right across Nightwish's history, from the very early days like 'Elvenpath' and 'The Carpenter' (from their debut 'Angels Fall First' record) right up to 'Élan' and the opening parts of 'The Greatest Show On Earth (from the most recent 'Endless Forms Most Beautiful' release). The next thing that demands to be mentioned was the stunning visual presentation throughout the Nightwish show. There were screens on the risers as well as a huge screen at the back of the stage. Various different images were displayed as the performance progressed, including the likes of the 'Once' cover that was very effectively used to my personal favourite images which contained different pictures of wolves during 'Sacrament Of Wilderness' (I think it was that number, I was so impressed with the visuals I forgot to note which song it was in). There were also lots of pyro effects as well, including some fireworks and flame jets that all added to the visual aspect. At one specific moment, Floor Jansen was surrounded by dry ice from the floor which made for both a nice and almost eerie visual effect.

With six such talented musicians on stage, it will come as no surprise that musically this gig was immense, and when you add this to the wide-ranging set-list and fabulous visual presentation, it really did all combine to make for one hell of an evening. I have to add that whilst everyone on stage was on fire, my performance of the night came from Jansen who really showed what an amazing front-woman she is. However, as much as that is a personal thing for me, that is not to say the rest weren't every bit as exceptional. There were plenty of highlights for me throughout the set which included 'Dark Chest Of Wonders', 'Wish I Had An Angel', 'Gethsemane', 'Élan', Sacrament Of Wilderness' (partly for the visuals), 'Elvenpath', 'I Want My Tears Back', 'Last Ride Of The Day', 'The Carpenter' and 'The Greatest Show On Earth' (which opened with some beautiful celestial images on the screens).

However, far and away my track of the night was 'Nemo'; it is one of my Top Five favourite songs and the only other time I have seen Nightwish live it was performed acoustically. Thankfully for me tonight, we got the full bells 'n' whistles version and it was absolutely amazing, so much so it brought a tear to the eye to finally hear it live in all its glory. I was sadly forced to leave towards the end of 'The Greatest Show On Earth' due to train times and getting home, so I missed the end applause and, with much regret, 'Ghost Love Score' so I can't tell you how big the reaction was from the crowd was at the end, but I suspect it was massive. The crowd were very involved throughout when it came to clapping and cheering, but I must admit I was surprised by how static the audience on the floor were aside from that, the possible exception being 'I Want My Tears Back' and 'Nemo' when things really livened up.

For me personally, I really can't find any fault with the show this evening. I did miss the inclusion of tracks like 'Amaranth' and 'Bless This Child', but that was more than made up for by the inclusion of several tracks from the earlier albums that would not normally have been played. The set-list was excellent, the visual side was captivating and the band themselves were superb. You really can't ask for anything more than that. This was a gig I will remember for many years (and not just due to the fact I was able to interview Jansen before the show) and I am thrilled I was there for this fantastic show – I can safely say that on this night, all my wishes were indeed granted.

Dave Scott

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