Saturday, February 27, 2016

Nightwish Live in Royal Oak

Nightwish played at the Royal Oak Music Theatre on Friday night, with Delain and Sonata Artica. and I was there. Not the greatest venue for a concert, but it was a solid show.

This was the first time I'd been to the Royal Oak Music Theatre. It's almost 100 years old, and started life as an "art-deco movie palace." The fact that it wasn't designed as a music venue shows. The stage is pretty low, making it tough to see if you're not especially tall. There are tiers to the floor space, but only a few. If you're not in the first couple of rows from the front of the tier, good luck seeing past all the people in front of you. There's a balcony, which I'll keep in mind if I ever go there again...might be worth a bit more to get seats up there.

The doors were supposed to open at 6:30, but I decided not to show up that early, figuring that nothing much would happen for a while. Glad I did, because when I arrived around 7:30, there was still a huge line outside. (In the's February in Michigan!) It was 7:45 before the line cleared out. Which worked out all right because I needed to find parking anyway. Downtown Royal Oak on a Friday night stretches the limited nearby parking pretty far.

By the time I got inside, Delain was already playing. I've probably heard a song or two of theirs on Pandora or something, but nothing I recalled clearly. It's always tough for the first warm-up act at any concert, of course, but the crowd was fairly lively. The music sounded good, but I couldn't really tell what they were doing on stage. I was maybe 50 feet back, on the second floor tier. There were many 6-foot-plus people in front of me, though, and the stage wasn't high enough for me to see above them. Even holding my phone up at arm's length, I still had people's heads blocking the view. All the pictures I took suffered somewhat from that, as well as from my phone's weak camera and my poor photography skills, but they did get better later on.
After that, I moved back and up a floor tier. There were still people in front of me, but I was only a couple of rows back from the edge of the tier, so I could mostly see through the gaps between people. So I saw a bit more of Sonaca Artica, but unfortunately the sound was terrible. Someone didn't do a great sound check, because the drums were up so loud that they drowned out almost everything else. The music I did hear seemed decent, but that was maybe 20% of what they actually played, when the drums were comparatively quiet. The rest of the time, all I heard was bass and snare drums. I'd blame it on my hearing or the acoustics of the hall, if it wasn't for the fact that neither of the other bands had the same problem. It was just some poor sound engineering.
Sonaca Artica
Fortunately, by the time Nightwish took the stage,  the problems were mostly ironed out. I had a spot where I could (mostly) see, and their sound engineer knew what he was doing. It was about 9:45 when the main show started, and they played for almost exactly 2 hours.
A large portion of the set list came from the latest album, of course. The show began with the first song from Endless Forms Most Beautiful, and ended with the last, with plenty more in between. I was mildly disappointed that they left out my favorite track (Alpenglow), but you can't fit everything into two hours. The last track, The Greatest Show On Earth, has a bit of a reprise of Alpenglow's "we were here" chorus anyway, and that made a great ending to the show.

Older songs were plentiful, too. I particularly liked Storytime (from Imaginaerum) and Seven Days to the Wolves (from Dark Passion Play). Floor Jansen, who took over as lead singer back in 2013, did a pretty amazing job singing the earlier stuff, considering that those songs were written for singers with higher ranges. I noticed a couple of spots where she had to drop out of the high notes, but overall she handled it very well. I just hope her voice holds out, doing that stuff every night on tour!

The one major omission that I noticed was the lack of Wish I Had An Angel (from Once). Considering that it was probably their biggest US hit, I was surprised not to hear it in the set list. Maybe it was intended as an encore that never happened, or maybe they're just tired of playing it. Not a big deal, anyway, with so many other good songs to choose from.

It was good to see Troy Donockley on stage, too. He's played various non-traditional (for a metal band) instruments as a guest on the last few albums, and joined the band officially for the latest one. You don't often see a flute or the Uilleann pipes played on stage at a metal concert! I actually had to look that last one up, didn't recognize the instrument on sight, but fortunately it's pictured on Troy's Wikipedia page.

All things considered, I had a great time. The night started out a bit rocky with the logistical issues of parking and waiting in line, and the venue had some issues. But live music has a way of helping you to forget those little annoyances. Nightwish puts on a wonderful live show, and I hope to see them again someday.

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