Following on from Judas Priest and Gojira, the final headliner of Bloodstock 2018 is the mighty Nightwish. It could potentially be a daunting prospect for the band, playing in the wake of genre-defining heavy metal and one the most powerful performances the festival has ever seen, but the symphonic Finns are made of tougher stuff, and they know the scale of the show they’re packing.
Dubbed the Decades tour (after their recent greatest hits release), Nightwish are here to show how they managed to become one of the biggest bands in metal today. They’re a bona fide arena band now, playing this size crowd on the regs, but they’re not going through motions – it’s a slick, polished production and a defiant, powerful performance from all six members.
Frontwoman Floor Jansen is a vocal powerhouse, her voice able to reach lofty heights most can only dream, all backed with an inherent intensity and (most importantly) passion. Nightwish have been touring this show across the festivals all summer, so it’s a slick, highly-polished machine, but the excitement plastered across the faces of the band looks like it’s their first time onstage all over again.
While the music and the performances are full of energy and emotion, the production itself is the star of the show. There had been whispers all weekend about the kind of stageshow Nightwish would bring, and it manages to make Judas Priest’s set looks like a school play. A vast screen covers the back wall, with smaller screens filling any gap on stage, firing out pristine visuals of various flora and fauna, including an elongated segment of a wolf moon – lifted directly from a t-shirt everyone in the field has owned at some point.
It’s a stunning, ambitious pyrotechnic display too. Unlike Gojira’s barrage of fire and smoke, Nightwish use their bangs and whizzes sparingly, but when it goes off, it goes off, creating a shape-shifting wall of flames around the band and blasting flamethrowers over the crowd.
Sure, it’s not as busy as the previous two headliners, but it’s Sunday and the on/off rain of the weekend hasn’t helped. As Floor tries to get Bloodstock dancing for I Want My Tears Back, there are a lot of tired legs reluctant to move, but the dedicated fans down front are more than happy to oblige.
Of course, it’s still Nemo that receives the biggest reception, but the epic visual display of Chapters II and III from The Greatest Show On Earth lift the crowd to the heavens, complete with a cathartic release of chanting “We were here!”.
It might not be the heaviest performance the main stage has seen all weekend, or the one everyone will be talking about, but it’s a signifier that Nightwish are now on another plane, looking at how to expand and experiment with their expansive back catalogue in both a musical and visual sense. No doubt next time they headline here (and they definitely will) it will be even bigger, brighter and more fire than a party round Smaug’s house.
1. End Of All Hope
2. Wish I Had an Angel
3. 10th Man Down
4. Come Cover Me
7. Sacrament Of Wilderness
9. I Want My Tears Back
10. Devil & The Deep Dark Ocean
12. Slaying The Dreamer
13. The Greatest Show On Earth (Chapters II and III)
14. Ghost Love Score