Nightwish – Arena, Birmingham – 10th December 2018

Beast in black

Tonight is the second of three UK arena shows for Nightwish on their Decades tour. It’s a sign of how they’ve grown in recent years as their last proper UK tour was in Academy venues, whereas this year they’ve already played Bloodstock and are doing three arena shows. The turnout is pretty good, there are certainly far too many people to fit in the Academy, but there’s still a lot of space in the venue – Nightwish aren’t quite big enough to fill the venue even in the half-arena configuration, but then again coming a few months after a festival appearance may have reduced demand for tickets as some fans will have seen them at Bloodstock.

Support on this tour is Beast in Black. Founded by Anton Kabanen after his departure from Battle Beast, they’ve been going down a storm with the Nightwish fans. The set is based around songs from their debut album, “Berserker” and I’m sure their performance here (and on other dates) will have inspired a lot of people to buy the album afterwards. It’s a great set full of really good songs and it really is an excellent start to the night. They’ve certainly impressed me enough on this tour for me to buy their album.

Next up came Nightwish. Although Floor tells the crowd it’s been ten years since Nightwish played the city and it’s her first time there with the band, it’s actually only been six years and the Nightwish singer for that tour was Floor Jansen – it’s obviously been a long tour for her to forget that. I’m sure many of the fans here tonight will have seen Nightwish at Bloodstock festival earlier in the year, so know much of what to expect but these shows are bigger and better than the festival shows they did. The biggest change is the set length – these shows have a longer set and they’re playing a setlist that really does have something for everyone.

To coincide with the “Decades” compilation album, the tour is taking a trip through the back catalogue, but they’ve not just picked the big songs – there’s no “Wishmaster” for example, but they have mixed big hits with less well known gems from their back catalogue, so for casual fans and people who only really know the more recent albums there are songs such as “Elan” and “The greatest show on earth” from the latest album (although obviously they only play selected parts of “The greatest show on earth” to keep it to a sensible length and avoid losing too much pace. There are also the songs that seem to go down best with the crowd – from Imaginaerum, “I want my tears back” and “Last ride of the day”. For the more hardcore fans though the highlights of the set are songs like “Dead boys poem” and “Come cover me” – songs that the band havent played for many years and many fans never expected to hear live again. It’s always a tricky balancing act when creating a setlist – having enough of the more popular songs to keep most people happy while at the same time having some of the more obscure songs to keep hardcore fans happy. Many bands fail to get the balance right but I think Nightwish got it spot on.

The stage show is fantastic – with screens not just at the back of the stage and to the sides, but also in front of the risers, the drum kit looks to be floating in mid air. The visuals are fantastic and really enhance the gig. Throw in plenty of fire and you’ve got a great stage show. It’s good that Nightwish are finally able to play venues in the UK that can handle their arena-sized stage show as in the past European dates have been spectacular while the UK got a more basic setup. It’s only since they played Wembley arena a few years ago that the UK has seen the full Nightwish show.

Of course a great stage show is nothing without a great performance from the band, and here too they deliver. The show kicks off with Troy performing Swanheart solo before the rest of the band joined him and the show really got underway with “Dark chest of wonders”. The band are in superb form at the moment and all look to be having a great time on stage too. Since Floor joined the band on vocals they’ve seemed complete for the first time. Tarja was an incredible singer but never really looked happy on stage with Nightwish, and Anette was a good singer whose voice was perfect for the newer material but not so much the older material. With Floor, she can sing both old and new material, but more importantly, she’s the first real rock/metal singer the band has had (Tarja was an opera singer, Anette a pop singer), and her energy and enthusiasm really seems to have lifted the band on stage. When not singing she’s dancing or headbanging or windmilling furiously and really is perfectly at home on stage. Don’t get me wrong – I love the previous singers vocally but Floor is the performer the band was missing.

Nightwish’s performance tonight is absolutely fantastic, and coupled with their stage show it’s a real spectacle. With excellent support from Beast in black, this really has been a night to remember, and it’s easy to see why many hardcore fans travelled to multiple dates on the tour.


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About Ant May

I spend half my life at gigs or festivals and the other half writing the reviews and editing photos, and somehow find time for a full time job too. Who needs sleep - I've got coffee.
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