The time had arrived for my first local concert since my arrival in Berlin. Finnish “symphonic metal” band Nightwish are on tour to promote their album “Dark Passion Play”. I never was a huge fan of them, basically due to not really knowing a lot of their music. What did attract me though were their album covers. “Oceanborn” pictures a woman laying just under the surface of the sea with a full moon above, while a fan t-shirt (which I bought long ago purely for the picture and poem) pictured a woman staring at the full moon at night, with on the back a poem that was an ode to the sea. The words “to be one with the waves” somewhat moved me. Also, I remember a Nightwish article that featured the quote “Every dream is just a journey away”. Clearly they showed poetic potential, but somehow I never took time to discover the music. Until I heard the beautiful ballad “Sleeping Sun”, an ode to the night featuring the trademark operatic vocals by Tarja Turunen.

My first interest was raised, and then in late 2005 Tarja was sacked from the band because of personal differences between her and the rest of the band. Since then my curiosity grew, and when new vocalist Annette Olzon from Sweden was introduced I was curious to hear the “new” Nightwish. I feared that without the typical opera-esque vocals of Tarja it would not feel like Nightwish anymore, but on the contrary, the more rock-orientated vocals of Annette pleased me and “Amaranth” was both musically and lyrically a really interesting song.

So to call me a fan would be exagerated surely, but my interest in Nightwish was there and I started listening to some older work as well. Since then I started heavily sympathising with the Finnish band. Especially the song “Nemo” moved me, with its beautiful chorus: “Oh how I wish for soothing rain, all I wish is to dream again. My loving heart lost in the dark, for hope I’d give my everything.”

When I noticed Nightwish were coming to Berlin, my current home town, to promote the new album, the curiosity and interest in the band was big enough to buy myself a ticket. I was keen on hearing the new songs live, and curious how the older songs would be with Annette on vocals.

A 45 minute tram and subway drive took me to the Treptow Arena, located in (obviously) the Treptow part of Berlin, in the former East Berlin. The arena is in a nice location, just next to the river Spree with a nice promenade next to it. In the river, a bassin was built for open air swimming in summer, and next to the arena there is the famous Badesschiff where you can have a sauna and hot water bath with view on the Spree river. One of the hippest places in Berlin for sure. The arena itself surprised me as well. No small intimate concert hall, but a huge hall with room for almost 10000 people. The arena was practically sold out so my guess was that 7000 or 8000 people were present for Nightwish’s arrival in Berlin. Luckily there was a stand built for those who prefer to sit down for the concert. I usually prefer front-row standing, but not at metal gigs, as I am not into headbanging and jumping around a lot. So this time I was happy with a seat, which by the way proved to provide me excellent viewing, without being blocked by tall people jumping in front of me 🙂

Support act was a metal band called Pain. Quite heavy with some typical metal songs and screaming vocals. Not bad, though not enough variation to really keep me interested the whole time. But that is OK, as this meant time for a last drink before taking seats for Nightwish.

Approx 9:00 PM the time had come for the main act. A darkened stage with the Nightwish logo and name on the background was awaiting while some classical sounding music served as intro until the lights went on and the band members walked on stage. After a very short welcome message, the band chose to immediately keep the crowd going with one of the heaviest songs from the new album: “Bye Bye Beautiful”, a goodbye message to former vocalist Tarja Turunen.

To those who were anxious about the new vocalist, it was clear from the start that any fears were irrational. Annette, who looked quite cute with a short skirt by the way (yeah, I noticed that indeed…), immediately proved to be a quality singer. From the first song on she sang perfectly, and her voice suited extremely well with the music. Also, she immediately showed her charisma, walking around on stage and interacting with the audience as if she had been part of Nightwish since the early days of the band. You could clearly see an Annette full of confidence and who really enjoyed her new role, she clearly adapted into Nightwish really well and song after song she would prove that all bad comments appearing on some websites were not justified. Band leader Tuomas, who also does the keyboards and writes all lyrics, has made an excellent choice with Annette as new singer.

The band also took care for a bit of show elements, as from the first song onwards firecrackers and flames were used on stage. Especially during the heaviest parts of the songs, flames rose from several objects on stage. It made me think a bit of Rammstein, though a bit more modest. Still, a nice addition to the show.
The band chose for a setlist with the best songs from the new “Dark Passion Play” album (surprisingly leaving out “Eva”, the first song that was released from the album… though it was clear the band chose for rock and no ballads tonight, as also “Sleeping Sun” was not played) along with some more classic Nightwish songs. And yes, also here, Annette did the job perfectly. Songs such as Nemo were risky to be played because most people know the songs so well with Tarja’s voice which is entirely different from Annette’s voice. But Annette sang the song very well and it definitely sounded as good as it always did, she never tried to copy Tarja but just gave the song a new interpretation.

I really was pleasantly surprised, not just by her vocals but also by the stage personality of Annette. I saw an Annette who was well integrated in the band, who enjoyed every moment of the gig, appeared full of confidence, and was joking around with the audience in a really spontaneous way. Somewhat unexpected, she threw condoms into the audience, stating to the fans “have fun, but do it safe”. I never expected condoms at a Nightwish gig, but it was somewhat a pleasant bizarrity. Also, since the last album, guitarist Marco is doing vocals as well (though only in a few songs) and the combination of the male and female vocals worked out really well.

The crowd interacted really well with the songs, and responded really enthousiast to the band. The pyro-effects were a nice addition though not even necessary. With the music alone the band was convincing enough as it is. They finalised the concert and evening with a really great version of “Wish I Had An Angel”, yet another moment proving Annette’s vocals were really suiting the music well and that no older songs sounded any less good than before. All concluded, a nice concert which somewhat makes me enthousiast to maybe travel to another German gig of them as the tour will visit Leipzig, Hannover and some other cities not too far from Berlin.

I finalized my evening two subway stations further down the road, enjoying a few Coca-Cola’s in the famous Gothic/wave club K17. Thursdays are usually the best days in K17, and I was not disappointed. “The Broken Ones” (Diva Destruction), “Just Like Heaven” (The Cure), “Kiss” (my request ; London After Midnight), “The Passion of Lovers” (Bauhaus), “Bruise Pristine” (Placebo), and “My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend” (Type O Negative) were an excellent conclusion to a nice evening before I really got too tired to continue the night.
Let’s just say: my first Nightwish experience was a very good one, and I will definitely try to see more of their shows.