Nightwish - An Evening With Nightwish In A Virtual World Hot

Written by ant-rocks     June 03, 2021    
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Once again, Nightwish have pushed boundaries and massively succeed in their endeavour

Andover: My Lounge – 28th & 29th May 2021

As the world still grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic and the full commencement of live music events still something of a question mark, bands are continuing to find new and innovative ways of performing to their fans. Nightwish already have a few dates scheduled for July (Finland) and then a full tour running from Sept (Russia/Ukraine/Belarus), through October (USA/South America) and November-December (rest of Europe), to January 2022 (China). To further heighten the anticipation of their fans – who are likely already feverishly excited at the prospect of finally seeing Nightwish live on stage again (and I suspect also generally impatient for the resumption of tours) – the band created 'An Evening With Nightwish In A Virtual World', a two-night event where the band would play a full-on live set (with two slightly different set-lists) in The Islander's Arms. The tavern and its location were created digitally and based in a virtual world. The event was originally scheduled to take place in March, but due to touring schedule changes, it was all moved to May. The show on Fri 28th May kicked off at 7pm BST and thus was aimed at the European audience, whereas the performance on Sat 29th May (which actually started at 1am on Sun for European fans) was intended for the North/South American viewers. It was my intention to watch both performances live, but an unexpected change in circumstances meant I ended up watching the second event on Sunday evening.

Prior to both shows, there was a VIP virtual session where the band's new bassist was introduced. It came as a shock to everyone when long-time bassist Marco Hietela left the band, and Tuomas Holopainen even considered calling time on Nightwish; thankfully, that only lasted a few days. With a countdown clock ticking away after 6pm, the screen eventually faded to two chairs with the presenter and new Nightwish bassist for the upcoming tours – Wintersun's Jukka Koskinen. Several questions were asked and nothing unexpected was revealed with the new bassist saying all the right things. With the conclusion of this virtual chat, it was time to settle in for the show. Even now, after a few streamed events, it still feels a bit strange to settle into my recliner with a few beers and watch a live performance on my big TV.

Unlike a couple of other streamed events I have watched or reviewed, this one was indeed live in every sense of the word, and I have to say all the better and more satisfying for being so. I will not go into a song-by-song/blow-by-blow account of both shows. If you are a Nightwish fan, you will almost certainly have a good idea of what it all sounded like in terms of individual songs. One of the major draws for the two shows was the fact that this was the first time that any of the songs from 'Human :II: Nature' had been performed live. Given I went to London to interview Floor Jansen and Troy Donockley back in Feb last year (just weeks before the country went into lockdown), it still feels amazing just to write that... that songs from that album and interview are only now being played live! Nightwish certainly lived up to their promise on that front and then some. Each show consisted of eighteen tracks (including the 'Music' intro), and of those eighteen, six songs were played from the newest album for the Fri performance, and five tracks appeared in the Sat show. The 'Music' intro, 'Noise', 'How's The Heart' and 'Harvest' appeared in both sets, while Friday saw an appearance for 'Tribal' and 'Shoemaker', but it was 'Pan' that was given an airing on Saturday. The rest of set-list was made up of tracks from earlier albums, some appearing both nights whilst others were picked just for one show. I am of the opinion that the "concerts" were different enough when it came to set-list that it was worth watching both shows. In total, thirteen tracks appeared on both nights with a further five unique to each show.

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The performances themselves were an absolute joy, and if the smiles on the faces of the various band members were anything to go by, I think they were as happy to be performing together again as we were to see it. Koskinen more than held his own on the bass and there were several moments where the likes of Jansen or Emppu Vuorinen went over to his side of the performance area. It would seem that a good rapport has already been established. Jansen was her usual sensational self on vocals and gave the viewer a few occasions for a Floor-gasm across the two nights. Tucked away in the middle was drummer Kai Hahto who seemed to be having a ball, main-man Holopainen doing his thing on the keys and Donockley who was switching between various pipes, whistles and guitar. If there was one disappointment from the actual performance, it was the fact that with Hietela no longer in the ranks, Donockley had to step up to cover his vocals in 'I Want My Tears Back'. As talented as the multi-instrumentalist is, he doesn't quite have the vocal power to roar out the lines like his former bandmate. It's a tough situation as it is no doubt a popular track, but I must confess I do not have an alternative idea to suggest to the band.

When it came to the visuals, you could tell that the band and their team of techies had really worked hard. Throughout the show there were lots of images behind the band that changed for each song, and during every track there were cutaway shots to the virtual world outside or different views of the tavern. It certainly looked otherworldly with the images making me think of something out of 'Lord Of The Rings'. In truth, in this high-definition age, it is not too hard to work out that most of the images were digital, be it outside or things around the band such as fires or trees. A testament to the quality of the work is that whilst most of it was clearly digital, I did find myself wondering if maybe "that tree might actually be there behind them" or another aspect may be real-life props. Having seen some Behind The Scenes photos, it's clear that everything bar the band was digitally created. There could be an argument that maybe there was too much cutting away to the virtual world outside, and I can't deny I would have preferred less of that and more camera shots of the band themselves. However, having built this up as a big virtual event, you can't be too harsh on them for wanting to show off as much of the digital hard work as possible. It certainly made for an interesting visual spectacle as the band played away.

If there is one particular negative that could be mentioned when talking about the actual overall performance, it was the time between songs. More often than not, there was a reasonable pause that contained nothing much bar silence. It might be harsh to say it felt uncomfortable, but you could say it possibly felt a bit awkward sitting there watching it. On Fri there was a little bit of banter between a couple of songs, at one point discussing getting a drink and the available ales in the tavern, but without wishing to be too harsh, it felt forced and possibly worse than the silence. I have a feeling the band may have felt this too as there was less of it for the Saturday show. A previous show I recently watched was a recording of a live show in a studio (performed about a month earlier) where the band had two screens containing the cams of people who were watching it live. I can't help but feel that this fantastic live show from Nightwish could have been all but perfect had they tried something similar. It could have been from a lottery of ticket holders or fan club members, there are many ways a virtual audience could have played a part, in turn this would have given Jansen someone to interact with. The only potential other disappointment is the fact that the shows were only available to be re-watched for 48 hours, even to reviewers. It would have been nice to have had the chance to flick through them again today, back-to-back, to offer a more detailed comparison between the two shows. Sadly, the time limit is up for both already.

Altering things to account for those two small negatives would simply have been the icing on the cake. Overall, this was a fine performance from a band who it would appear have not missed a step despite the fact they will likely have hardly played together (if at all) in over a year. The playing was excellent, the singing an absolute joy and the set-list varied enough to offer something for everyone. The original blurb for the two nights mentioned two ninety-minute performances, but both nights ended up over the hundred-minute mark (albeit there was the opening/arriving and closing/leaving digital "scenes" bookending each night). My highlights were played on both nights, and they would be 'Élan', 'Last Ride Of The Day', 'Ghost Love Score' and 'Nemo'. The latter is an all-time Top 5 song of mine and it's always an absolute joy to hear it played live.

I had a great time watching these two shows and I will now be crossing my fingers (and a whole host of other things) that the journey we are taking out of the most recent lockdown here in the UK continues on track. Hopefully, there will be no going backwards in the Autumn and I will be in the middle of a large crowd at Wembley for the band's return in December. It would seem I am not the only one as the viewing figures for this virtual event topped 150,000 which set the record for the largest paid virtual concert in Finland's history; in terms of viewers, fans across 108 countries picked up tickets for the event. Once again, Nightwish have pushed boundaries and massively succeed in their endeavour. However, I can't wait to see them in the flesh at the end of the year because no matter how good the show is virtually, you can't beat being there in person!

Dave Scott



Friday 28th May

Music (intro)
Planet Hell
She Is My Sin
7 Days To The Wolves
I Want My Tears Back
Bless The Child
How's The Heart?
Last Ride Of The Day
Ghost Love Score
Greatest Show On Earth
All the Works of Nature Which Adorn the World: Ⅷ. Ad Astra

Saturday 29th May

Music (intro)
Planet Hell
How's The Heart
Dark Chest Of Wonders
I Want My Tears Back
Ever Dream
Sleeping Sun
Last Ride Of The Day
Ghost Love Score
Greatest Show On Earth
All the Works of Nature Which Adorn the World: Ⅷ. Ad Astra

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