Oh, Nightwish. The English language does not consist of the proper words to describe how much the band means to me. Growing up, AC/DC was my favorite band and they held that title for the better part of 25 years until Angus Young showed the world that AC/DC isn’t about making fans happy, it’s about making money by any means necessary. When Angus kicked Brian Johnson out of the band after 30 years over his temporary inability to tour and replaced him with Axl Rose of all people, rather than packing it in and riding off into the sunset by gracefully retiring AC/DC, Nightwish unseated them as my favorite band just over a decade after first hearing their music when I was turned onto 1998’s Gethsemane from Oceanborn.
Nightwish has been through a lot over the past 22 years, but their music has always been there even though I got into them at a weird time. Less than a year after first hearing their music and falling in love with the band, they and Tarja had a very bitter, very public divorce and I swore I wouldn’t listen to them after the way the honeymoon ended. Then came Anette Olzon and 2007’s Dark Passion Play, which gave fans like myself the likes of Amaranth – which is the song that sold me on Anette taking the reigns – along with The Poet and The Pendulum and so many other great tunes. I never did get to see them with Tarja, seeing the band for the first time on the Imaginaerum tour on my birthday in 2012 – still the best birthday I’ve ever had – and then, suddenly, with zero warning came another very public, very bitter divorce between Tuomas and his lead singer, and there I was again swearing I wouldn’t go through another major change with this band after the massive success of the Imaginaerum album.
Enter Floor Jansen and I’ve fallen in love with the band all over again. I’ve seen Nightwish three times now since she joined the band – on opening night of each leg of the Endless Forms Most Beautiful tour and now on the Decades tour – and she continues to blow my mind every time. With that said, I know Tuomas Holopainen is a musical wizard and I’m not one to question his judgment when it comes to Nightwish tunes, and while the setlist for this tour is spectacular, Nightwish has so many great tunes that I couldn’t help but be disappointed by what they didn’t play combined with the fact that they are effectively ignoring Anette’s existence in the band by playing a measly one song from her brief tenure – I Want My Tears Back.
And so it is that ignoring the greatness of her two albums – specifically Imaginaerum – is kind of disrespectful to both her and her fans. Songs like Amaranth, Storytime, and Last Ride of the Day absolutely could have been included in an 18-song, two-hour performance, and ignoring almost entirely one of your most successful albums is a shame, as is leaving some of your most popular tracks out of both the compilation album and the tour setlist. Songs like Dark Chest of Wonders, Stargazers, My Walden, Alpenglow, She Is My Sin, Bless The Child, Romanticide, Escapist and perhaps most importantly to me, Over The Hills and Far Away – yes, I know it’s not their song, but it’s one of their most popular tunes anyway – were inexplicably left off the setlist. Yes, I know it’s a greatest hits album and an anniversary tour of sorts, and this is probably me seeing a much better setlist in their music, but as good as the show was, with Nightwish it can always be better if you’re talking about their best songs over the past two-plus decades.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about what they did play and how I absolutely lost my shit for the fourth time. It’s no secret to anyone that I love this band and they always keep me coming back no matter the drama as they continue to make incredible music like the 23-minute epic The Greatest Show on Earth, which, combined with Ghost Love Score made for an absolutely incredible last half hour of the show. Ghost Love Score is and probably will always be my favorite Nightwish song, and The Greatest Show on Earth is right there with it, so to hear those two back to back and watch my favorite band close a show with my favorite gave me chills and had me going absolutely wild.
Combine that with hearing so many songs live for the first time ever – Gethsemane, 10th Man Down, End of All Hope, The Kinslayer, Dead Boy’s Poem, The Carpenter, Slaying The Dreamer and Elvenpath among them – and the fact that Floor Jansen is always incredible to listen to and you’ve got one very happy fan writing this review. Nightwish never disappoints me with their live performances and that’s why I will never miss a Nightwish show remotely in the NYC area and also why I entertained the idea of going to Philly two nights later to see them a fifth time and, to be honest, I probably should have. That’s how good they were at Playstation Theater on this Wednesday night as they continue to put on epic performances that rank among the greatest shows I’ve ever seen.
Two hours is a long time, but it’s never long enough when you’re seeing your favorite band and they’re kicking ass the way they always do. Like I said, I trust the musical judgment of Tuomas Holopainen and the setlist ended up being absolutely fantastic once the house lights went out and the fun started, but as a massive fan, I will always think there can be a better setlist than whatever they’re pumping out on a particular tour. I really wish they would have run through at least a couple more songs from the two albums with Anette and one or two more from their only album with Floor, but this show was absolutely stellar and the rest of the tour will be that way as well. For now I’ll hold onto hope of a second leg and impatiently await the band’s next album so they can tour again and I can add show #5 – and probably more – to my collection of Nightwish tickets.
Check out the photo gallery from the Playstation Theater show while I go spend all my money on prints: