+ BEAST IN BLACK SSE ARENA WEMBLEY, LONDON 08/12/2018
Epic metal royalty bring arena-slaying alchemy to the capital
■ It’s been three years since Nightwish last headlined Wembley. It’s the same venue and the same band, but the atmosphere tonight is different. Back then, there was a feeling of near-disbelief that this most grandiose of rock bands could have so comprehensively captured the popular vote on these shores. That show, immortalised on 2016’s Vehicle Of Spirit DVD, was only the start. Now, these stars of symphonic, cinematic metal rarely play anything more intimate than arenas. Tonight, England expects – and Nightwish truly deliver, with a set that’s as much a production as it is a gig.
Before the explosions, both emotional and pyrotechnical, Beast In Black offer an unorthodox confection of intricate guitars, cheesy keyboards and ozone-eating vocals. The Finns certainly have some anthems, but their more syrupy stuff has an odious air of Eurovision about it.
In contrast, after the headliners’ long intro teases to the point of madness, there’s a cathartic expulsion of joy as Nightwish smash into opener Dark Chest Of Wonders. They’re accompanied by flashbombs, fireworks and, finally, the reliably controlled soar and release of Floor Jansen’s incredible voice. The result is simply astounding.
The set list is a two-hour retrospective, including some rare one-off songs from the vault that they’ll never play again, like Elvenpath from their 1997 Angels Fall First debut. Meanwhile, Slaying The Dreamer judders with power, Nemo caresses with feeling, and the multi-part The Greatest Show On Earth remains one of the finest rock extravaganzas you’ll ever see.
Tonight is actually the happy resolution of a story so loaded with difficulty it was sometimes tough to read. Through sheer mastery of their art, peerless musicianship and top stagecraft, Nightwish have become one of metal’s biggest bands. It’s hard to think of anyone who deserve it more. STEVE BEEBEE