08.07.2023 @ Konzertfabrik Z7, Pratteln, Switzerland
Rarely has the announcement of a concert series made such big waves: it took less than 24 hours for a newsflash everywhere that two former Nightwish members were going on tour together. Naturally, this caused a lot of speculation and perhaps some unrest in the Nightwish camp. However, it was quickly made clear that the two will not play a complete show together, but will each be on stage with their own bands. Clearly, everyone here in Pratteln hopes that this is not quite the case at the first show of the tour, where several nations come together for this potentially historic event.
Four bands in best weather (32 degrees) conditions for this open air event in front of the Z7 Konzerthalle. Illumishade from Switzerland start their show in front of a not so numerous audience only half an hour after doors opened, many are still outside the venue. This band features interesting personalities: Fabienne Erni, known as a member of Eluveitie, has another creative outlet with Illumishade. You can clearly hear her training as a pop singer, even though at first the notes don’t quite sit as they should. Erni’s rather delicate voice fits the music of Illumishade. She is accompanied on the keyboard and theremin by Mirjam Skal, who wrote music for several films. A versatile young woman, totally absorbed in her element, with her blue hair she looks like a mermaid on stage. Jonas Wolf, a trained guitarist, and Yannick Urbanczik form the string section to Fabienne’s left and right, while Marc Friedrich provides the beats. The Swiss spread good vibes with frontwoman Fabienne’s winning attitude and draw the audience to their side. A successful start of this evening.
Delain on the road for the first time with someone new at the microphone, which surely is tingling the nerves – will she be accepted by the fans, will the old songs go down just as well or not, that’s always a nagging question. Charlotte Wessels, the former singer, expressed a dazzling personality; although she always seemed very distant to me, she delivered a good performance. How about successor Diana Leah? And there’s another newbie, Ludovico Cioffi, on bass and for the male vocals. Replacing Timo Somers, Roland Landa is back in the band, therefore it’s a mixture of old and new faces. As long as mastermind Martijn Westerholt doesn’t quit, a new line-up will always work for Delain (find out more about it in our video interview).
Diana from Romania doesn’t have an easy task indeed as the new front woman, but she does her job quite well. Her voice is a bit finer and higher, but she still manages to carry the songs nicely. However, especially with “We are the Others” there should be a more powerful delivery, which I miss here, but the audience still seems to have fun with the performance, and so does the band. Diana is not only a skillful singer, but also a cookbook author and does food photography. Interesting mixture and we should be finding out how she discovered Metal music eventually. In any case, the band seemed very grateful about the very welcoming audience despite the line-up change.
A quick chageover and off we go with number one of the veteran Nightwish crew – Marko Hietala. Yes, I know, always the same old story, but for me Nightwish doesn’t exist anymore since Tarja left the band; to be honest, I only like the more recent songs where Mr. Hietala sang alone. Now as he’s also no longer with the band either, all the better for me, I don’t have to listen to the new era of Nightwish material. Mr. Hietala has already performed here in Z7 for Valentine’s Day 2020 and presented his solo album, which doesn’t have much to do with metal anymore. Marko’s songs are very emotional and quiet and some are in Finnish. In order not to leave the audience completely in the dark about the lyrics, he explains the content to the crowd and, as I hear afterwards, for most of the fans this seems like too much talking. I think the explanations are good, but lengthy speeches are not everyone’s cup of tea. Struggling with small sound problems, at times caused by keyboardist Vili Ollila, it is a very entertaining concert. I know Marko’s fellow musicians from Finland, kind of funny to see these guys performing again after so many years and partly in a different music genre. Anssi Nykänen has played with many big names in the Finnish music scene, as well as Vili Rope Ollila and Tuomas Wäinölä, who has played with Ari Koivunen, Jarkko Ahola, Raskasta Joulua and even HeviSaurus. Great musicians who show us their best together with Marko. Just nice to listen to them all.
So now the big moment of truth: The last performers, the last chance, will they sing together or not?! What do you think?
Tarja enters the stage, beaming as always -hard to believe she suffered a stroke in 2018. This woman is hard to beat in terms of charisma and she still casts a spell over me. However, something I need to mention at the beginning, Ms. Turunen could do without these tear-jerking moments, the adulation for the fans and all the thank-you-speeches.
She is and remains for me the probably most influential woman in my life – next to my mother – and had a huge impact on me in my youth. Everyone wanted to be like Barbie, I wanted to be like Tarja, or at least be able to sing like her. How I cried when Nightwish kicked her out, how I celebrated when she came back as solo artist. In the last few years, however, I haven’t followed her quite as much, unfortunately, as well as the music scene in general. That’s why the first songs are unknown to me, then after a while I finally recognise a song with some effort and have to admit that it’s not difficult for me because I don’t know it, but because Tarja has some trouble hitting the vocal melody. In general, it has to be said that there were many off-key notes, but the lady makes up for it with her stage presence and shines in the spotlight. Apart from Alex Scholpp and Christian Kretschmar, I don’t know the live musicians, but they should all be Germans, hopefully I’m forgiven for not catching their names.
Well, the best-of hits are there and in the middle of the concert they suddenly begin with “Phantom of the Opera”. Everyone pulls out their mobile phones and hopes that now it comes what they have been waiting for – Marko and Tarja together on stage again. And indeed, after Tarja has sung the first part of the song, Marko steps on stage to take over the male vocal part. The audience is blown away, some so much that they can’t even applaud and even forget about their mobile phones in their hands, staring spellbound at the stage. Thrills of joy when the two perform the song together and Marko gets on his knees in front of Tarja. A wonderful emotional moment for people like me who last saw them on stage together with Nightwish 18 years ago, and have the opinion that these two outstanding musicians simply embody Nightwish. The two of them also have to get a grip after the song, the reunion seems to be quite emotional for them as well. A hug and the fans are over the moon, the one or the other tear is shed, even Marko’s musician colleague Vili Ollila, who is standing not far from me, is visibly moved by this scene. So beautiful and yet somehow far too short. But we are all grateful that it came to this at all and that old conflicts are put to rest. Marko leaves the stage to his former co-musician again and she continues to go full steam ahead with the concert, while her daughter and her husband are watching in the audience.
I think it’s nice that this woman just does her thing, without showing much skin or being too damn focused on the right notes, still always easily winning over the hearts. She expresses power and passion on stage, which she will hopefully continue to do for half an eternity. A cheeky little “We have other surprises for you in the future” from Tarja gives us hope that it wasn’t the only time with Marko. Will be waiting anxiously for that. Thank you, Tarja and Marko, for this wonderful historical evening, which we will never forget. After 18 years back again on stage, this was pure magic.