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Nightwish triumph under the stars

Bikinis, alarm clocks, and the American rise of the symphonic Finns

Nightwish’s growth in America is barely short of remarkable, and the vast array of products available to hardcore devotees — everything from shirts and tote bags to bikinis and alarm clocks — suggests the band might well be Finland’s answer to Kiss… as far as merchandising goes.

For years, Nightwish have been playing mid-sized Los Angeles-area venues to capacity crowds. Lately, though, they’re reached for the larger arenas — like last year’s performance at the Gibson Amphitheater — and fallen short of a sell-out. California’s limping economy and high unemployment rate can’t help: there are always a few big fans who can’t afford to see their favourite band, and it appears that this is the case at LA’s rather lovely hillside Greek Theater. Despite a few empty seats, however, the audience’s love for the band emerges in a big way early into their performance. Beneath a starry sky, Shudder Before The Beautiful — the opener from the new Endless Forms Most Beautiful album — leaves not one fan seated.

New vocalist Floor Jansen commands the stage with tattooed grace and sensuality, and shines most on the material designed around her voice. Her growl in the title track is a nice departure, but she remains true to the older songs for the most part, often retaining the fragility and control that made the band’s former vocalists (the wildly beloved Tarja Turunen and her successor Anette Olzon) unique. Jansen struggles slightly on some of the softer material, such as Sleeping Sun, but by the final chorus she’s in top form.

Amaranth and Élan continue to excite the crowd, as does a first-ever LA performance of fan favourite Stargazer. A goosebump-worthy moment occurs when bassist Marco Hietala sits solo and performs The Islander, inspiring a rousing sing-along before the band join in. And despite the loss of the band’s original singers, it’s obvious that this is keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen’s show: his unique brand of epic movie soundtrack-inspired symphonic metal has yet to disappoint.

The highlight of the show is surely the twelve minute epic The Greatest Show On Earth. Strong applause brings the band back for two encores, Ghost Love Score and Last Ride Of The Day, before any fans who aren’t too financially fazed can seek out those well-stocked merchandise booths.

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All images: Stephanie Cabral.

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