Length: 96 minutes
A live showcase for the new lead vocalist of one of my favorite bands, NIGHTWISH.
I can count on one hand the number of live-albums I consider classics. Whenever I hear live, with all the foibles, audience and background “ambiance” I think, “God, if I could just listen to the studio version.”
I believe Shakespeare is meant to be SEEN performed on stage, not read. And I believe that live music is meant to be LIVED, there in-person with all the energy. Usually live recordings sound like pale (and noisy) reflections of their studio counterparts.
- If the studio versions, well, suck.
- If personnel changes alter the original studio versions significantly, and you just gotta hear the impact on these “old classics”.
- If the band is a “live band”, one that mostly comes alive when in the presence of an audience.
- If the band has aged/matured, dramatically altering the sound and style. A re-imagining of old songs often brings new life to them.
So with a little hesitation, I jumped into NIGHTWISH’s live 2013 (Video + 2CD) release ‘Showtime, Storytime’. After they lost the operatic power styling of vocalist Tarja in 2005, they altered their style. Their last studio effort ‘Imaginaerum’ is almost Prog Rock when compared to the towering Symphonic Metal of pre-2005. Anette Olzon is a great vocalist, she just couldn’t sing like Tarja.
New vocalist Floor Jansen doesn’t have any such “range” problems. In fact, at times, I hear Tarja in her performance. She is distinct. But she has no problems hitting those high notes, none at all. Being a fan of her work with AFTER FOREVER and RE-VAMP, I’m glad to say that she fits into NIGHTWISH like a glove.
Her presence alters and energizes the Olzon era tracks–giving them a trademark NIGHTWISH sound.
Of course, they rest of the band is in top form, well-worn veterans of the concert scene. I still prefer the studio “sound”, but whatcha gonna do?
Floor is awesome, she has an attitude that Tarja lacked (a GOOD attitude). She plays these tracks without haughtiness. She hits the highs and her midrange is very strong, almost preferable at times. And when performing live she seems more genuinely engaged than Tarja was.
This is also the first album to include frequent session man Troy Donockley as a full-time member. His tin whistle, uillean pipes contributions are definitely heard. Adding nice “folk” background/melodies.
Opening tracks “Dark Chest of Wonders” and “Wish I Had an Angel” come from the Tarja era studio album ‘Once’. They clearly stamp the return to the classic sound. Jansen and co-lead vocalist/bassist Marco Hietala sing very well together. The songs from ‘Once’ are the closest to the original studio tracks here–and we get a lot of them. Wished for a deeper back-catalog selection–they have SEVEN albums after-all.
Early album tracks from the heart of the Tarja era are few and far between. The Tarja defining album ‘Century Child’ is only represented by a paint-by-numbers “Bless This Child”. Many of these the older tracks don’t fair well. Almost no effort was made to re-imagine them for this new vocalist. They seem to want to focus on the future, not the past. However, “She Is My Sin” is awesome–the best that song has ever sounded.
Olson sang on NIGHTWISH’s masterwork ‘Dark Passion Play’. But as that album was written BEFORE she came on board, the songs don’t really fit her vocal style.
Alas, that grand album is all but ignored. Only “Amaranth” made it. It’s an album highlight. Heavier with great bluesy stylized vocals. Both recognizable and still very different. Even allowing the audience to sing parts–normally bothersome, but demonstrating the infectious “live” spirit. This track gives me the most hope for the “new” band and their potential for mixing up what NIGHTWISH has been doing the last ten years.
Why do we need instrumental tracks on live-albums? Nothing bores me more than listening to a band hunker down in front of an audience and play technical, but disconnected material. The vocalist is the show-master–when they sit it out we lose most of the show.
“Ghost Love Score” (in all of its 10+ minutes of glory) really hit home how grand these guys can sound when performing epic Prog-Symphonic Metal. A near perfect version: more immediate and intense than ever. Almost “angry” vocals accompanied by perfect instrumentation. Composer/band leader Tuomas Holopainen shows off his exceptional keyboard playing.
The entire band does a great job on this “played without edits” performance at Wacken Open Air in Wacken, Germany on August 3, 2013. An emotional and electric show in front of 80,000 screaming metal fans. Wacken is a legendary musical festival for the top Heavy Metal bands in the world.
Five (out of the six) tracks from their latest album, ‘Imaginaerum’, are good examples of this “new” sound. “Storytime” and the stormers “I Want My Tears” and “Last Ride of the Day” are all worthy. Very Power Metal–like taking ‘Imaginaerum’ and beating it to near-death with ‘Once’. As much a stage for Marco’s melodic metal voice as Floor’s.
The audience participating is very rousing. And fortunately there’s only a couple of hammy “lead vocalist to audience” bits, “You people are all beautiful!”–whatever.
“Outro” instrumental “Imaginaerum” is the laziest concert closer I’ve ever heard. It’s played as a lullaby (to put everyone to sleep?) WTF!
‘Showtime, Storytime’ doesn’t change my opinion of live-albums. It shows great things to come for Floor Jansen’s contribution and is solid melodic metal music played by an exceptional group of musicians. Other than a few tracks, most of the studio versions are better. But it’s NIGHTWISH–so I’m not complaining too loudly. Still recommended.