Finland's two largest exports were fittingly together in New York City, NIGHTWISH at the Nokia. Despite NYC being Swine Flu central in the US, our intrepid musicians had no fears dealing with a throng of well-wishers pressing the flesh, hugging and the occasional cheek-to-cheek buss. "We're used to it," says singer Anette Olzon of annual flu bugs. "Every year there's a flu from Asia and we get a large influx (in Sweden). I get a shot every year." Thus she's prepared, cautious, but not really worried about the latest outbreak. The second night of the "North American Vodka-Cranberry Massacre" tour (check out the laminates, if you have the chance), also the midway point of dates with Troy Donockley (Hartford, NYC, Allentown and Baltimore only), the uillean piper who has appeared on Nightwish studio works.
3pm: The band comes wandering down Broadway, through Times Square, in the opposite direction of the roped off, early arrivals (ie, to their backs). Nearly everyone misses their heroes, until feet from the safety of the doorway. First it’s Anette and her manservant, followed a few minutes later by the guys and Donockley, carrying his own case of pipes, led by the blond Viking of a manager, Ewo.
3:30pm: The scheduled sound check time has come and gone, things running a bit slow on just the second day of the tour. Nightwish only arrived in NYC a few hours earlier, whereas they typically leave for the next town right after a show, sleeping on the bus and getting to bed in a hotel of the next city by morning. Such was not the case between Hartford, CT and Manhattan.
4:15pm: All hands on deck for sound check. The European stage props, Tuomas Holopainen’s keyboards in the bow of a boat and a giant anchor, were too cumbersome/expensive to fly Stateside. Holopainen is pretty much already in stage clothes, complete with Crocodile Dundee hat. Emppu Vuorinen is seated in a folding chair, guitar in lap, as they run through ‘Sahara’. Anette is in sweats with her stylish eyeglasses and pink stiletto heels. The rhythm section of Marco Hietala (bass) and Jukka Nevalainen (drums) is low key as they proceed through ‘Higher Than Hope’ and ‘Romanticide’. Donockley appears as the singer departs, so they can run through the lively, Celtic influenced instrumental jig, ‘Last Of The Wilds’. As the drummer leaves, a pair of acoustic guitars show up and with Hietala singing, the remaining crew tries out ‘The Islander’, Donockley reprising the tin whistle/recorder parts he played on Dark Passion Play. In rehearsal, I get a similar ethereal, almost haunting feeling as the show with John Two-Hawks in Texas, a rare evening is on tap!
Afterwards, it’s back to the dressing room, where the piper turned amateur magician entertains the boys with a card trick. Tuomas runs back to the hotel prior to the 6pm meet n' greet, where fans who paid a premium get a few moments with their idols, maybe to secure an autograph or picture and hold an impromptu chat. Conversation turns to the luminaries who have espoused a liking for Nightwish. Apparently Tony Iommi (BLACK SABBATH) went to the Birmingham, England show with his daughter and quickly became a convert. IRON MAIDEN’s Steve Harris is a fan and recently Lemmy, the incarnation of MOTÖRHEAD, has voiced his admiration for the Finns. Lofty praise from your peers, indeed!
When the line goes around the block in NYC, you’ve got quite a crowd and the Nokia was sold out (2,100 capacity). So when the house light dimmed, a roar went up, as Tuomas and Troy, the latter seated at the front of the stage, were the solitary figures, as they launched into the intro, one by one the other band members strolled onstage, lastly was Anette as the began ‘7 Days Of The Wolves’. Her hair back to middle-of-the-back length blond, Olzon’s potato sack of a dress didn’t flatter her. The upbeat ‘Dead To The World’ was followed by an apology for having to cancel the previous New York date (due to her illness, thus these sporadic US-only make-up shows) and ‘The Siren’. In the lobby of the venue, the entire concert could be seen from a multi-camera shoot, on giant video screens, so those at the bar never really had to leave. ‘Amaranth’, then ‘Higher Than Hope’, which was dedicated to the memory of Mark Brueland a fan who died six years ago, his mother and sister were the band’s guests for the evening. The stage was flooded with strobes during ‘Poet And The Pendulum’. Anette provides a plug for the keyboardist, calling him “maestro,” the introduction gives the females in the crowd (quite a few, as manger Toni remarked to me as we shared a drink as the audience filtered in. “The first tour, it was all black t-shirts,” he said, referring to the metalhead crowd, “but now it’s more a mix, like it is in Europe. Moms/Dads bringing younger kids, along with the diehards”) a chance to scream.
Marco asked for “lighters, cell phones, cameras, any light source” for the atmospheric ‘The Islander’. Half way through, wearing the now requisite tiara, Olzon takes her place on the vacant bar stool. With Donockley already onstage, they charge right into ‘Last Of The Wilds’, a headbanging anthem, even without words. ‘The Escapist’ and a quick ‘Dark Chest Of Wonder’ before the encore, ‘Wish I Had An Angel’. Backstage, there was a crowd of record execs and their guests, as well as Jens Johansson (STRATOVARIUS), who seems to show up whenever Nightwish are involved (He and I listened to Dark Passion Play in the management offices in Helsinki together), but the band are a tricky bunch. Emppu is a master of sneaking out, hoodie usually pulled up, with backpack and camera bag in tow, he’s typically out the door almost as soon as he sets foot off stage. Marco, Tuomas and Troy entertained the gathering, before the keyboardist headed out the front door, right past fans that were waiting alongside the alleged band bus.
If you get the chance, go see Nightwish, as it’s likely to be a long time until they return to these shores, given that September 19th marks the end of the Dark Passion Play world tour and impending layoff until the next record is recorded.
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