If you are a metalhead living in Miami, you are pretty much doomed. The major port city on the Atlantic coast of South Florida is well-known for being a major center and a leader in finance, commerce, culture, media, entertainment, arts, and international trade, but no variant of metal is contained within the aforementioned categories. I’ve been living here for almost ten years, and I could count with less than ten fingers the total of metal shows that have graced the “Cruise Capital of the World”. Consequently, if you see Finish symphonic metal stalwarts Nightwish announcing the closing date for their Decades North America 2018 Tour with a show in the heart of downtown Miami, you don’t make plans for that night, because that is an event you wouldn’t want to miss.
Erected in 1926 as a home for silent movies, The Olympia Theater oozes charisma, from the red velvet curtains to the baroque balconies. The theater’s simulated night-sky ceiling has looked down on the likes of Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Luciano Pavarotti and countless other notable names, and last Sunday it witnessed a full symphonic-metal night, courtesy of Finland’s illustrious sons. Lines of Nightwish fans of all ages had been forming since early afternoon around the entrance, and the air was loaded with a contained expectation. As the fans crossed the doors threshold after working their way through the security checkpoints, they were greeted with a free CD of the recent band’s compilation aptly titled “Decades”, a welcomed – and unexpected for many – treat included in the ticket price.
It took another solid 30 minutes for the lights to visible dim, while the humongous screen projector came alive, initially displaying a No Cell Phone rule and a No Social Media statement shortly after, explaining that the show would be a trip back in time and we didn’t have these capabilities when Nightwish was beginning many years ago. The screen then turned into a one-minute regressive countdown with the already pumped hordes of fans voicing the last 10 seconds at the top of their lungs. Lights went completely down, and a brilliant spotlight focused on the silhouette of Troy Donockley, who had taken his spot to the rightmost area of the stage and began playing parts of “Swainheart” on his pipes and whistles. Few moments after, Tuomas and Kai took to their places, followed shortly by Marco, Emppu and lastly Floor, the crowd erupted in a roaring ovation, everyone stood up from their seats, and the band launched the night diving into “End of All Hope”.
Two hours is a long time for any band to play, but Nightwish pulled all the stops and made the 120 minutes to fly like a short blink. With a set-list centered around older songs that haven’t been played in many years – the clear majority of them from the Tarja‘s era – the band delivered in all possible fronts, certainly living up to the promise of putting out a special show for the last night of the tour. The technical prowess of each band member contributed to the stellar and outstanding presentation, with Floor Jansen absolutely owning the night, switching effortlessly between registers and engaging with the crowd with a smile painted on her face at all times. She’s certainly the best all-round vocalist Nightwish has ever had, and I agree with my friend – and lifelong Nightwish fan – Gonzalo Pozo: she brings an extra special ingredient to the Nightwish live recipe. Whether belting out a soaring chorus or causing chills amongst the audience with a poignant ballad, Floor is a truly feast for your eyes and ears.
Two of the most outstanding highlights of the night were “I Want My Tears Back”, played with the entire theater involved in some sort of musical frenzy, jumping and singing their hearts out with Floor, and when after playing the first three chapters of “The Greatest Show on Earth” – a song that I truly appreciated to be cut off in their live version, as it turns tedious and bloated in its entirety – they jumped into “Ghost Love Score”. A 10-minute epic that goes through multiple different sections, woven together by great keys and orchestrations, as well as Floor‘s haunting vocals, for me sits at the pinnacle of Nightwish‘s creations – from its creeping opening basslines and Jansen‘s softer vocals building up to higher and higher vocal and instrumental peaks, the song is damn near perfect and their live interpretation was… mind-blowing.
A masterful show, further enhanced by stunning visuals related to each song, propelling the meaning of their performance to new heights, Nightwish has certainly commemorated their paramount 20th anniversary career with a high peak celebration, arguably closing a musical chapter before moving into the first stages of creation for a new record.
Intro (With Swanheart instrumental snippet) / End of All Hope / Wish I Had an Angel / 10th Man Down / Come Cover Me / Gethsemane / Élan / Sacrament of Wilderness / Deep Silent Complete / Dead Boy’s Poem / Elvenjig (Traditional Cover) / Elvenpath / I Want My Tears Back / The Carpenter / The Kinslayer / Devil & the Deep Dark Ocean / Nemo / Slaying the Dreamer / The Greatest Show on Earth (Chapter I: Four Point Six; Chapter II: Life; Chapter III: The Toolmaker) / Ghost Love Score