We often complain here in New Zealand that we don’t get any decent international acts. Which is not actually true. Thanks to hard-working promoters, I’ve been able to see some incredible shows over the years, from both big and small international bands. Metallica, Alice Cooper, Iron Maiden, Inquisition, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Opeth, Motorhead, Absu, Amon Amarth, Immortal, Alestorm, Children of Bodom, Dragonforce, Goatwhore, to name a few.
We don’t get international bands every week, like the more popular touring cities in Europe and the US, but we do pretty well considering we’re a tiny island at the arse-end of the world. But because it costs so much to fly equipment and musicians here, and our population is small (meaning shows are small), there are certain types of bands you wouldn’t expect to see here. Namely, popular European metal bands that command a decent crowd. Bands like Nightwish.
So when Chaos NZ announced back in September that they were bringing over Nightwish … well, you can imagine the response. For many fans over here, this is a dream come true. You should have seen people on Facebook going crazy about it: wanting meet-and-greets, obsessing over the setlist, wondering why they were playing in a tiny club on K’rd and not a 20,000 seat theatre …
Interest intensified after Annette’s sudden departure from the band, and with fans speculating about the replacement, expectations sure were high. And one lonely little metal blogger was kindly offered the chance to interview Nightwish and attempt to get the inside scoop. :) Let’s just say I have some awesome friends.
The date is Jan 8, 2013. After a nerve-wracking backstage interview with Marko and Tuomas where I accidentally said several incredibly dodgey things and invited them to look down my friend’s top, we went off for dinner and drinks before heading back to the Studio for the show. The line snaked down k-rd and around the corner. There were Nightwish shirts everywhere and people talking excitedly about their favorite songs and albums. The last time I remember a metal show in Auckland with this kind of vibe and turnout was Opeth back in 2004.
We walked in the doors as Stormforge took the stage. Courtney O’Leary’s pipes soared all the way to the back, and the rest of the band sounded on top form. New drummer Antony Misfud-Houghton laid down an impressive techniqual performance and uncompromising groove, and Flynn Fredriksson’s tight leather pants … well, the less said, the better.
Next up was Naquadah, a local rock group who’ve been going strong for ten years. Their sound is a bit of Evanesence crossed with Bif Naked and, although they looked a bit crowded up on stage, and suffered from some sound issues, they put on a great show. A perfect opening choice as they appeared to the less extreme metalheads in the audience.
Third on the bill were Forsaken Age, who got the crowd riled up with heavy, classic riffs and true metal attitude. It’s always fun seeing a band having fun on stage and not taking themselves so seriously, and the crowd loved it. (Except for a few strange spoilsports up the back where I was standing who didn’t seem to get it, but I got the feeling they’d never heard of Judas Priest or Manowar, so that’s OK).
And the final opening act was Damnation’s Day, a hugely underrated thrash/melodic metal band from Australia. You could compare their sound to the 3 Inches of Blood album, Advance and Vanquish, with a bit of Dragonforce thrown in. This is a seriously underrated band, (as our friend Johnowar pointed out, one of several severely underrated bands to come out of Aussie in recent years), and I hope we hear much more from them in the future.
Finally (because really, four opening acts and an hour’s break between Damnation’s Day was a bit much, although I understand technical issues were to blame), Nightwish took the stage. Took it and dominated it. The show was an absolute joy, even I was pouring sweat and my feet were dying after standing since 7pm. The band seemed right at home on the smaller stage, and the sound quality was good considering the venue (Studio is not known for excellent live sound). They have such a high energy performance and talk to the crowd a lot, and the whole show felt extremely intimate and personal, a real treat I think, from a band who usually plays larger stadiums and festivals.
Of course, the question on every fan’s lips is, “how does Floor compare to Annette/Tarja?” Having never seen either perform live, I’m not sure I can fairly comment, but Floor’s vocal performancecould not be topped. She was note perfect with a deep, luscious tone, and an impressive vocal range. With her height and fiery hair she reminds a lot of Simone Simons, and a couple of times during the new Imaginaerum songs I accidentally thought I was at an Epica show. The style of that album and Floor’s voice really suit the band. I’ve heard bad things about their live performance from friends who’d seen them in Europe with Annette, but I must say, I was impressed.
What struck me most of all was the genuine smiles on the faces of all the band members. They were having an absolute blast, and their attitude rubbed off on the crowd. There was an incredible energy in the room. They played some old favorites, including “I Wish I Had An Angel”, “Ever Dream”, “Nemo” and my favourite track, “Over the Hills and Far Away.” But the majority of their setlist was songs from the new album, Imaginaerum, including crowd favorites “I Want My Tears Back” and “Song of Myself”.
It was a fantastic night, and one that certainly proves New Zealand has the fanbase to bring over such bands, provided they can play smaller club shows. A big horns up to all the bands who opened, to Nightwish for coming over and being so friendly and awesome, and to Chaos NZ for putting the whole thing together! \m/
All photographs copyright Jacko Andrews, OnStage Productions. Do not use without permission.