I don’t usually start off show reviews this way, but as a heads up to the reader, this one is going to be all first person perspective. I feel it’s the only way I can adequately convey how I felt about last night’s musical experience, so you’re just going to have to bear with me.
First off, the turnout for this show both baffled and pleased me to no end. When Vick and I arrived just a few minutes before door time, the line had already extended from the Town Ballroom to nearly halfway down to the HSBC building. If you’re familiar with downtown Buffalo at all, you know that’s a pretty impressive line. I’ve been to a handful of shows at Town Ballroom over the years, and I’ve never had that “sardine in a can” feeling there before last night. In fact, it took security so long to funnel everyone inside, that at least a hundred people were still standing outside as Delain was starting their set. Vick and I squeaked in the door just after their first song.
As for the artists, Dutch symphonic metallers, Delain, kicked things off in their typical fashion with powerful orchestral keys, heavy riffs and captivating vocal melodies from front-lady, Charlotte Wessels. Most fans were disappointed with their song selection. They mostly played their more bland sounding tracks from the last few albums, along with their key singles. However, I felt they were strong in the sound department, making them a solid opener with surprisingly heavy crisp guitars, keys and vocals.
Afterwards, Sabaton took the stage and dominated, plain and simple. They’re a fun group of guys that take heavy metal to the next level. Musically, they remind me of a heavier symphonic Judas Priest. Their songs are based on historical battles and American and European military history, but I think what really won them a lot of new fans last night was personality. Frontman, Joakim Brodén, was hilarious and made it a point to jokingly say, “If it wasn’t for some of your grandfathers, you’d all be speaking German right now. And let’s face it, you Americans aren’t exactly known for your language skills.”
Many of their songs are centered around American military history and Sabaton always makes it a point to give proper dedications to those who have fallen in the line of duty. Furthermore, a group of fans near the stage were signaling to the band with German, Swedish or American flags, in accordance with the lyrical content of whatever song was being played. My friend John was among them. At one point, Broden took hold of their Swedish flag and wore it as a cape like a superhero. Shortly after he boasted, “My superpower is going to be cheap furniture”, but not before he’d already commented, “Don’t think just because we have Ikea that we’re all peaceful and shit.”
Sabaton cleared the stage after playing their encore, which was the opening track off their latest album, Heroes, paving the way for Nightwish.
Nightwish began their set in typical Nightwish fashion. This was my fourth time seeing them, so I knew exactly what to expect. The lights dimmed, then eerie blue spotlights illuminated the room accompanied by the ominous sounds of rolling ocean waves and whale songs. Lately, they’ve been working a lot with Richard Dawkins, a well-known English ethologist and dedicated athiest. He narrates portions of Nightwish’s latest effort, Endless Forms Most Beautiful- an openly secular record paying homage to the life and work of Charles Darwin.
Once the whales fell silent, Richard Dawkins’s voice kicked off the first song with, “The deepest solace lies in understanding, this ancient unseen stream- a shudder before the beautiful.” Wintersun drummer, Kai Hahto then immediately kicked into the song, “Shudder Before the Beautiful” along with Marco Heitala’s heavy bassline and Tuomas Holopainen’s orchestral synth arrangement. Then, one by one, the rest of the band emerged as needed.
The set continued with fan favorites going all the way back in their discography to 1998’s Oceanborn. “Stargazers” and “Sleeping Sun” were played off that record. They also briefly visited Wishmaster with the song, “She is My Sin”. The rest of the set was made up of songs going from 2004’s Once through their latest release. From Once, they played “Dark Chest of Wonders”, “Nemo” and “Ghost Love Score” as one of two encores. Imaginarium was visited via the songs, “Storytime”, “I Want My Tears Back” and “Last Ride of the Day”, which was the second encore. Dark Passion Play was only touched on with “The Islander”, but that was a high point of their set for me because of Marco’s acoustic steel-stringed solo performance for the better part of it. Marco played a double neck for the majority of the set- an electric bass adjoined with an acoustic guitar. Troy Donockley wowed the audience with his flute and bagpipe skills during that song as well, while also joining Marco and Floor Jansen for a moving vocal performance. I think Troy brings a lot to this band and I’m glad he’s a permanent part of it. Hearing his soothing flutes and bagpipes during older songs gave a whole new perspective. He ended “Sleeping Sun” with Tuomas on bagpipes and I felt that made the entire song much more enjoyable and fresh.
As I’m sure you’d expect, the majority of Nightwish’s set was new material. Here’s what you can expect to hear from the new album on future tour dates:
- “Shudder Before the Beautiful”
- “Yours Is An Empty Hope”
- “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”
- “My Walden”
- “Weak Fantasy” (Kai does an amazing drum solo to kick off this song)
- “The Greatest Show On Earth”
The night ended with Nightwish’s traditional bow to the audience, while Richard Dawkins spoke in the background about how lucky we are to be awake in this universe. It’s a sample from the song, “The Greatest Show on Earth”, named after one of Dawkins’s novels, released in 2009. Most European bands do a traditional bow to the audience after sets and Delain and Sabaton ended their sets the same way. I think it’s a very humble way to say goodbye to your fans and make some kind of connection with them, especially when you’re on the other side of the world, and the odds are good you’ll never see many of your audience members again.
I suppose I’m now at that regrettable point where I’ve officially run out of words and thoughts about this wonderful show, so in conclusion, I’ll say this: Thank you for reading this review. If you were there last night, I hope I adequately conveyed last night’s events. If you weren’t there, whether you’re a fan of these bands or not, I hope my words at the very least inspired you to add some new songs to your music library. Thanks again for reading!
Temporary smartphone photos, courtesy of John Parise, Chris Norwich and Chris Crocker. More photos coming soon after editing!