Nightwish at the Diamond Ballroom, 10/9/12
Tue, October 23, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Brendan T. Smith

Nightwish are consummate professionals, you certainly have to give them that much. Nary a week after unceremoniously dumping the sweet, much-maligned Anette from their lineup, the band of Finnish rockers finds themselves with a couple hundred people in a glorified barn in middle-of-nowhere Oklahoma. And they rocked the hell out. 

Turmoil? What turmoil?

Having seen Nightwish twice now, the thing that strikes me most about their live performances is how much damn fun that group always seems to be having. Big stage. Small stage. Tarja. Anette. Even now, amidst much change and uncertainty, every person on the stage, including unproven new vocalist Floor Jensen, looked to be having a blast. Playful smiles, crowd interaction, and glorious head banging were everywhere. Their enthusiasm is infectious. The crowd loved it. 

The crowd also loved the new voice of Nightwish. Ms. Jensen got quite the warm response upon waltzing confidently onstage and in later, more personal addresses to the crowd. These fans gave no sign of being unhappy with being suddenly down a familiar face (and their accompanying vocal chords). Floor certainly did her part and fit right in. That lady has a mean hair whip and clearly knows how to rock. 

She also knows how to sing. Technically speaking, she's more classically proficient than the pop-influenced Anette. In theory this makes her a better fit for Nightwish's bombastic style. In practice, things haven't quite settled down enough to tell. Anette may have been an admittedly odd choice for a replacement, but she got damn good at what she did. By the end of her tours with the group, she had learned to make songs both old and new her own. The going was rough, but she made it work. 

Floor, by comparison, sounded somewhat like an incredibly gifted karaoke singer; by which I mean that she was technically impressive, led confidently with her rocking-yet-approachable persona, yet didn't quite feel at home with the material. Something almost intangible was a little off. Her Tarja impersonation was clearly more impressive. Hearing a more classically tuned voice perform Dark Chest of Wonders and Wish I Had an Angel just seemed right somehow, as much as I had come to appreciate Anette's alterations.  

When things came to stepping into Anette's shoes, however, she seemed to be a little more ill-at-ease. Considering the less demanding material this seems a bit odd, but there was no denying that, to my ears, she struggled to put the same witchy twist on Scaretale and the same pop bombast into Amaranth. Trickier new-era material, such as Storytime and Last Ride of the Day, fared better.  

Floor did pull out a mean version of Slow, Love, Slow, complete with funky bass solo and fan to blow her hair around like in an 80s music video. It made me a little sad that I didn't get to see Anette perform what was surely her strongest vocal moment, but Floor did the material justice. Same with an acoustic rendition of Nemo that came shortly afterward. The lady has no trouble going soft, clearly. 

Once you got past the novelty of the new face though, what you were left with was a short concert devoid of surprises or fan favorites. Troy Donockley (thanks, Internet!) filled in some bagpipe and flute sections in The Crow, The Owl, and The Dove, The Islander, Nemo, and Last of the Wilds, which was much appreciated. Hearing live renditions of what could have been recorded samples added energy to the material. His bagpipe-thingy was mighty catchy (still one of my favorite moments off of the sketchy Imaginaerum) and his flute playing quite affecting. But there was was no material here save the newest album we hadn't seen before. No old favorite pulled out of the closet. No attempt to make use of the new singer's abilities to renew a Tarja-era classic. I guarantee that a performance of Wishmaster would've brought our dinky little barn down to the ground. The crowd was aching for it.

Well, there was one lone older tune, out of place amidst the rest of the shiny new setlist. Nightwish dragged out a rendition of Ever Dream that frankly should have stayed in the closet. To be clear, even this song had been Anette-icized at some point (though it wasn't one of their more common choices) so even this wasn't new, but I'd prefer Anette's version any day over the forced, screechy version Floor awkwardly belted out. I'm not sure if you've noticed this before, but that song requires the vocal range of 13 average pop singers duct-taped together. Anette reworked the song to fit her capabilities (as she did with all the oldies). Floor was trying a bit too hard to step into overly large shoes. This song was the single track representing the entire pre-Once era. One of about 14 or 15. 

Over half of the concert was Imaginaerum. I even double checked a setlist ( Your reaction to this would probably have varied depending on how well you like their newest soundtrack-esque mishmash, but I thought it was far too much. If the enthusiastic reaction of the crowd to every semi-old song compared to the middling response to the newer ones was any indication, the audience agreed with me. It felt to me that every song remotely worth remembering on Imaginearum, plus a few more to boot, was trotted out. This does not make for the most interesting of concerts. 

I'll be fair here though. It's nothing new. At least recently. When I saw them at this same venue in 2009, their setlist was constructed in a similar fashion only skewed toward the new (ish) album at the time, Dark Passion Play. You know what though? That was a better album. And the setlist included Saharah (Anette's finest moment pre-Imaginareum if you ask me), The Siren, While Your Lips Are Still Red, and not one but both The Poet and the Pendulum and Ghost Love Score. Epic. Song of Myself just doesn't compare, try as they did to make it so.

And the lull of the new tracks eroded some of that consummate professionalism I mentioned as the gig wore on. It's just not good setlist technique. The back half was far too heavy on mediocre new tracks. You could practically feel the tension between every song as the crowd waited for that old favorite to come out and rock the house, but it never did. 

The audience did love the show, and even most of the new material, but the band pulled a nasty fakeout that ended the concert on a sadly sour note. It's the only time I've ever ended a concert and seen the audience audibly groaning and disappointed. After playing Last Ride of the Day, which got the most energetic reaction of any of the new tracks by a long shot I might add, the band said the usual short goodbyes and headed off stage. The closing credits music of Imaginaerum played over the speakers. The stage lights stood still, awaiting the inevitable return of the band for their epic encore. The houselights remained off, tacitly acknowledging the coming finale. The audience waited, cheered, and clapped for the entirety of the credits music. A solid four or five minutes of anticipation.




Then, the house lights flicked on and it was over. Just like that. There was no encore. The band had abandoned their waiting crowd after a short performance of perhaps an hour and a half. It felt like a slight. Especially so after ending on Last Ride of the Day. A decent song, but a concert closer? For a band like Nightwish? Hardly. 

It's too bad things ended so poorly. Nightwish put on a truly enjoyable show, despite my negatively-skewed comments. It was energetic, fun, and full of variety. Their new singer performed more than admirably considering she's only  been on the job a week. I'd say Anette, for as much as I like to stick up for her, was doing considerably less well in her opening week. I don't know what the future holds for Nightwish, but I'd like to see what Floor can do for them. I hope she gets the opportunity to come into her own with them and lead them to new places. 

For now though, this concert will have to live in the shadows of what I feel is a far more memorable experience from a few years ago. With a better setlist, a more polished singer, and no dick-move ending, I remain firmly attached to my fond memories of their 2009 show here. It's still one of my favorite concert-going experiences. But, to be clear, I do not at all regret attending tonight. I was witness to the beginning of a new era. It was fun, interesting, and exciting, even if there were bumps along the way. Many thanks to Nightwish for seeing fit to perform in our little barn. We'll gladly have you back.

Oh, and Kamelot were freaking awesome by the way. Easily one of the highlights of the evening. Just for the record. You should check out their new album when it hits.

Article originally appeared on Zestful Contemplation (
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