It’s always a treat when a concert bill unites three bands that are established and fit well together. The second North American leg of Nightwish’s “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” tour is a great example of this, with Dutch symphonic metallers Delain opening the sold out concert, followed by the power metal of Finland’s Sonata Arctica.
Delain kick started the evening with “Suckerpunch”, the first of three tracks off their new EP “Lunar Prelude”. The band was in fine form, with diminutive new guitarist Merel Bechtold making her place in the band. Bassist Otto Schimmelpenninck was notably absent, presumably still recovering from last year’s onstage injury, so his tracks were pre-recorded and played back, along with some background vocals. While I missed his stage presence, it didn’t detract from their performance. During “The Tragedy of the Commons”, Montreal’s own Alissa White-Gluz, of Arch Enemy, joined Charlotte Wessels on vocals as she does on the studio version.
Delain keeps getting better and better every time; what the sold out Montreal crowd saw is a tight unit of pros, with great material, ready to take on the world. They were granted a generous 40 minutes for their show, and I wouldn’t have minded double that. Their 8-song set ended on a high note with the appropriately titled “Not Enough”. The Montreal crowd loves Delain and gave them a well-deserved and enthusiastic reception.
They were followed by Sonata Arctica, whose own 40-minute set included some of their best known songs, to the delight of the fans present who often sang along. The band takes a more informal approach to their performance, but the music was played perfectly. Their power metal sound created a nice change of pace sandwiched between two acts veering more towards the symphonic side.
Then came the main event. To the strains of Hans Zimmer’s score to the movie “Crimson Tide”, the band entered the stage and then unleashed a devastating version of “Shudder Before the Beautiful” from their latest album, their first studio effort with Floor Jansen on vocals. “Yours is an Empty Hope” completed the 1-2 punch, followed by majestic versions of “Ever Dream” and “Storytime”. If anyone in the crowd had any doubt about Jansen’s abilities to front this band coming in, they would have been obliterated by then.
The statuesque Jansen towers over the band, both vocally and physically, looking like an Amazon of Rock with her hair blowing back and a voice that can hit the operatic highs flawlessly but also deliver the grit of the more metal moments. The sound mix was great, with every instrument coming in clear from band maestro Tuomas Holopainen’s keyboards to Troy Donockley’s vast arsenal of exotic instruments. Holopainen makes his playing look easy, often looking on with pride at his band. The last two Nightwish albums represent a huge step up in songwriting, and most of that can be attributed to him, with Jansen being the last piece of the puzzle needed to bring this band to the next level.
“Endless Forms Most Beautiful” was of course the most represented album, but long time fans were rewarded with a deep cut like “Stargazers”, or classics like “Nemo” and “Bless the Child”. “Last Ride of the Day” and “The Greatest Show on Earth” closed the evening in grandiose fashion. As the band was taking its bow, Holopainen dragged Floor (who was celebrating her 35th birthday) to the front so she could bask in the fan’s applause while the rest of the band exited the stage.
Nightwish proved that with the addition of Floor Jansen, they stand in a league of their own in the field of symphonic metal. The band’s energy and music seems too much for a 2000-seat theater anymore. They’ll be back this summer at Heavy Montreal with their full theatrical setup (a first in North America), and it will be majestic, if this show is any indication.