Sunday 4th November 2012
Apollo in Manchester, UK
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
In recent years, it seems Peter Tägtgren's sole excursions with PAIN to these shores are always in tow as Nightwish's support act...2008, 2009 and now 2012. While some cynics might put that down to the band's connection with Nightwish's recently sacked frontwoman Anette Olzon, opportunities to witness Tägtgren & co. in live action are all too rare in the UK so it's a more than welcome regular billing for many. Me? I've always loved PAIN, know exactly what they're capable of delivering on the live stage, so bring it on! Musically, they're on fire tonight; the vitality of their industrial metal impetus astounds and is served up to a semi-appreciative audience with all the weight and vigour one has come to expect from a PAIN show. Vocally, however, as the set progresses, it becomes increasingly evident that all is not right. Tägtgren explicates his singing shortfall early on: "I lost my voice somewhere between Stockholm and the UK, does anyone have a spare one?!" You've got to feel sorry for the man as he battles on regardless, the true metal trouper he is. Despite subpar vocals and not quite hitting some of the higher notes, he still manages to sing his way through PAIN's set with enough gusto so as not to dampen the overall efficacy. And how the hell he attains that vocal delivery on the verses of 'Dirty Woman' with a voice that threatens to disappear completely at any moment is simply staggering. So full credit to the man for his "show must go on" ethos. Not concentrating predominantly on last year's critically acclaimed 'You Only Live Twice' album, there's a good spread of material from PAIN's back catalogue which climaxes with set closer 'Shut Your Mouth'. And Tägtgren's announcement towards the end of the set that PAIN will be returning to this country in February next year for a run of headline shows is greeted with vociferous cheers from the band's aficionados present in the Apollo tonight as it'll finally be a chance to experience this most marvellous of bands on their own terms...and hopefully with Tägtgren is full voice!
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There were a couple of big questions hanging over Nightwish ahead of tonight's show in Manchester's rather magnificent Apollo venue, the first date on the UK leg of their 'Imaginaerum' world tour. Would they bring with them the full show production complete with pyros and how would Floor Jansen fare in her capacity as temporary replacement for the recently fired frontwoman Anette Olzon? The answer to the former is no but that matters little as there's enough symphonic grandeur and sonic flair in the Finns' music without the need to resort to added spectacle. Sure, some pyros would have been nice, but the music and its flawless execution are way more important and, in this, Nightwish excel tonight. More importantly, what of Floor Jansen? Well, anyone already familiar with her singing talents in former band After Forever and current outfit ReVamp will be more than aware what this talented Dutch vocalist is capable of. Not only is she a frontwoman par excellence but her voice is so wide-ranging, powerful and full of expressive affection that, on paper, she would seem like the perfect choice to front this most unique of bands. So, on paper, yes. In actuality, I'm pleased to say also yes. Tarja Turunen's soprano delivery over Nightwish's earlier material was sublime and Anette Olzon's more pop-oriented voice added a new dimension to Nightwish's aesthetic (albeit divided long-time fans into a love-it/hate-it dichotomy). Floor, on the other hand, brings both of those qualities and then some. She'd already joined the US leg of the world tour, of course, so has a number of shows under her belt but the most astonishing thing about witnessing her on stage this evening is how natural and at ease she looks with the band in her temporary (hopefully permanent) capacity. Not just in her individual performance but with the band as a whole - there's a camaraderie and chemistry between her and the others that is in no small way forced or faked. It's as if it was meant to be...some things are. And when bassist Marco Hietala introduces her, hand-in-hand, there's a discernible adoration for the lady in his expression. She also receives a big hug from keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen at the show's climax and sticksman Jukka Nevalainen can often be seen glancing across in her direction with a beaming grin. Seemingly, Nightwish are as genuinely happy and thankful to have Floor in their ranks at the moment as she is to be there.
Setlist-wise, there a very few surprises. A large dose of material from 'Imaginaerum' is interposed with the 'hits' so, from the latest album, we have 'Storytime', 'Ghost River', 'I Want My Tears Back', 'Scaretale', the jazz-infused 'Slow, Love, Slow' and an apt set closer in the form of 'Last Ride of the Day', alongside more predictable airings of 'Wish I Had an Angel', 'Amaranth', 'Planet Hell', 'Dark Chest of Wonders' and an acoustic version of 'Nemo'. Uillean pipes virtuoso and now regular Nightwish collaborator Troy Donockley appears for the latter, along with renditions of 'The Islander', melodically majestic instrumental piece 'Last of the Wilds' and a re-appearance towards the end of the set for the Finns' unique take on Gary Moore's 'Over the Hills and Far Away'. 'Ever Dream' is the earliest track from Nightwish's back catalogue that makes an appearance tonight, sung beautifully by Floor, and one can't help but wonder if she does become the band's permanent vocalist, then this will undoubtedly widen the scope for revisiting some of the older tracks that were beyond Olzon's inferior range. And I'm sure a fully retrospective Nightwish setlist is something that's been long-desired by the band's longstanding supporters. Tonight, though, in the near-sold out Apollo, no-one seems to be complaining as track after track is met with gleeful appreciation. With hard-hitting, resonant sonics, aided by the venue's wonderful acoustics and apposite for Nightwish's symphonic amplitude, the band sound transcendent. As the masses exit the sweaty interior of the Apollo into the cold, autumnal night, talk is rife about not only the band, but Floor Jansen's incredible performance with several "she HAS to become their new singer" type of comments floating around. After tonight, let's certainly hope so.
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Nightwish at the Apollo in Manchester, UK, 4th November 2012
Photograph copyright © 2012 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com