My first experience at Manchester Arena was to be with the Finnish bands Beast in Black and Nightwish. I was a huge Nightwish fan a few years ago but they fell off my radar for a while, and tonight’s show made me ask myself why! Beast in Black were a new band for me, but I was very impressed. The arena was full of fans of all ages and my inner goth was loving the creativity of some of the outfits.
With a very prompt start, Beast in Black’s intro music began, “Night Crawler” by Judas Priest which was very clever with the lyrics “Beware the beast in black”. Although the venue was still filling up, this didn’t stop the band who had incredible amounts of energy. Opening the set with the self-titled track “Beast in Black” had the crowd warming up well, with plenty of fists in the air which continued throughout the whole night.
During the majority of the set, whenever there was an instrumental section, lead singer Yannis Papadopoulos left the stage, as if he was making sure the crowd’s attention was on the rest of the band members. All of the band were acting up for the photographers, posing and pulling faces. As soon as “Eternal Fire” began, being a newcomer, I wasn’t sure if my ears were deceiving me. The synth/ keyboard in the intro had me instantly thinking of “The Final Countdown” by Europe which was only emphasised by lyric structure of the song.
There was a quick pause for Papadopoulos to ask “Manchester! How’re you doing tonight?!” before “Blood of a Lion” began. Atte Palokangas on drums showed some serious skills, spinning and catching his drum sticks throughout this song and many others during the set. “Ghost in the Rain” dropped the tempo of the set right down for a ballad, as the audience helped set the mood raising lighters and torches into the air. This was done with some encouragement from Papadopoulos saying “C’mon Manchester! Show Birmingham who’s the boss!” which received a laugh from the crowd. During the song, the band were mostly still on the stage, with only slow walking from the lead singer. This definitely wasn’t the case in “Crazy, Mad, Insane” apart from the staged section with Anton Kabanen (lead guitar and backing vocals), Kasperi Heikkinen (rhythm guitar) and Mate Molnar (bass) moving in sync, wearing LED scroll glasses each with a different word from the song title.
A quick announcement about their upcoming album From Hell with Love (due to be released in February) before the penultimate song “Blind and Frozen”, which continued to show off Papadopoulos’ impressive vocal range. They announced that they were close to the finish and said a big thank you to Nightwish, as well as mentioning they have a big headline tour coming up next year but which unfortunately has no UK shows at the moment. This news received a loud “BOO!” from the crowd (although they did say they were trying to change this). Ending the set with “End of the World” saw a huge cheer from the crowd and once the band had removed their instruments, they all posed at the front of the stage for a final bow.
A huge black sheet fell ready for the stage crew to prepare the impressive staging for Nightwish. The venue was very full now and as soon as the lights dimmed, and the curtains dropped the crowd cheered with excitement. A voice over began talking about how concerts were better without mobile phones recording “wobbly videos” and how the band would like the audience to “travel back in time and turn off that little glass demon and tell it to shut up!”. Throughout the whole speech, you could hear chuckles from audience members and the statement was so true! Finally, a minute count down started, with the audience counting down from 10.
Troy Donockley began the night with an instrumental using the uilleann pipes and a tin whistle before the rest of Nightwish joined him on the stage to open with “Dark Chest of Wonders”. As soon as the song kicked in, the pyrotechnics were instantly in use and received applause from the crowd. “I Wish I Had an Angel” had a lot of fans singing along to the chorus along with Marco Hietala, bass player and vocalist.
Throughout the entire set, Floor Jansen on lead vocals was constantly head banging and dancing around the stage. With utter confidence, Jansen commanded the stage with complete control and power in her voice. “Come Over Me” from the band’s first album Angels Fall First shows Jansen’s vocal ability performing songs from their full repertoire. A quick break for Jansen to ask the crowd how they were doing and to say that she went shopping in the Christmas markets and had never seen Manchester looking so beautiful, before announcing that tonight was going to be “A trip down memory lane”.
“Elan” again had a lot of the crowd singing along and fists constantly in the air. During “Dead Boy’s Poem” it was like a wave of dry ice flowing over the stage. Due to the slower pace of the song, this emphasised Tuomas Holopainen skills on keyboards, piano and synthesizers. One of my favourite songs was next, “I Want My Tears Back Now”, and I think it was a crowd favourite too. Jansen egged the crowd on saying “Let’s get those feet off the ground and feel the music!” which the crowd were more than happy to do. Throughout the entire set, Emppu Vuorinen guitar solos were faultless and mesmerising.
A couple of songs later, Donockley had a turn to introduce a song, beginning with “Good evening you wonderful creatures” and mentioning how impressed he was with the energy levels for a Tuesday night. He then invited everyone round for Christmas with a quick mention of “I’m sure the wife will be chuffed” which had the whole arena laughing. Taking it back again to their first album, “The Carpenter” stressed how many long-time fans Nightwish have with the excitement when the song began.
Hietala introduced “Devil and the Deep Dark Ocean”, saying “This is a love story, an unhappy one” and describing the song further, while Holopainen and Jansen conversed over a glass of wine in the background. The stage effects took a step up with fireworks that I’m sure made more people than just me jump! Nightwish couldn’t have gotten away with not playing the next track, “Nemo” (although I was upset that they didn’t play ‘Bye Bye Beautiful’!). The crowd were singing along louder than I had heard all night.
Jansen took a moment to say thank you and warned the crowd that “If you are a dreamer, just be a little bit extra careful on this next track” before “Slaying the Dreamer” began. The penultimate song of the set “The Greatest Show on Earth” emphasised the whole band’s musical abilities and their stamina, with the song being one of the longest of the set.
A remarkable finale with more pyrotechnics, fire coming from all sections of the stage, more flames and two huge confetti cannons to finish. “Ghost Love Score” really allowed Jansen to show off her vocal range and enjoy the energy the crowd were giving off.
If you are a Nightwish fan and you haven’t yet been to a show, make sure you get to the next tour because they seriously know how to rock!
Photos by Jack Barker Photography