Nightwish - Imaginaerum European Tour 2012
25/04/12 - Mediolanum Forum, Milano

By Eleonora Muzzi
Translated by Elisa Bonora, Alessandra Leoni and Marco Belafatti

For sure, Nightwish gig in Italy was one of the most awaited events by a consistent part of the metal and non-metal audience. With their weird Imaginaerum World Tour they set the big top and asked more or less four thousand fans to enter in a whole new world, with a renewed setlist and a revamped production, with the circus as a main theme, since that defined the Finnish band’s latest album. This is an unusual 25th April, as Milan is not packed with traffic and it’s definitely less chaotic, even though a suburban venue like the Mediolanum Forum is not affected by traffic jams that might trouble a central venue. Although the weather doesn’t look promising at all, with those cumulus clouds in the sky right before the opening of the gates, the crowd has definitely been ecstatic since the very first hours of the day. There are some new faces and some already known ones, for people like us who have already witnessed to a Nightwish concert, and as we have a look around us, we can see that the audience is certainly mixed, equally parted between ladies and gents, boys and girls of all ages and even someone older, showing that Nightwish music is not just for the youngest.  As usual, getting into the venue is like Usain Bolt sprinting, with bold ones who defied boredom and uneasiness just to make it to the front row in the parterre and who spring up and run as soon as the staff check their tickets; the same happens at the entrance to the terraces. From our seats we can see the Forum getting quickly packed, with people coming in from all the entrances. The venue gets crowded so quickly (especially the terraces, completely filled) that one would think someone has torn down some wall to get in!
But on to the show itself now.

On the stage, which is not huge, four small street lamps, roughly a quarter a man's height, and four stools stand out. Everything else is covered by thick black sheets. This is the stage setting for the short - yet extremely effective - performance of Eklipse, a German string quartet who plays famous and less famous pop and rock songs with a symphonic arrangement, just like Apocalyptica but with two violins and a viola beside the cello. In their thirty minute performances the four girls play a few songs including the covers of “In The End” by Linkin Park, “Paparazzi” by Lady Gaga and “Clocks” by Coldplay, as well as a shorter version of the theme from “The Godfather” by Nino Rota, catching the vast audience's attention with a music that's totally outside the metal concept. This, however, breaks loose onstage a few minutes after the girls leave the stage.

The Finnish heavy/power revelation Battle Beast, winner of 2010's Wacken Metal Battle, charges in and pours a heavy flow of pure, fused metal onto the audience. Guitars on fire, tortured drums and explosive keyboards sustain the powerful voice of Nitte Valo, sort of a Nordic and feminine version of Rob Halford who gives the strongest eardrums a rough ride thanks to her unique voice and powerful high notes during the eight songs of the set-list. A young yet tight-knit team, these six guys perform a bumpkin yet pleasant, exhilarating show that triggers even those who had never heard of this band. “Enter The World Of Metal” gives the audience the habitual chance to sing along with the talented frontwoman; the voices powerfully rise up from the crowd and warm up for the main event. Looking at the two support acts, we might be led to think that they embody the two souls of Nightwish, that is the symphonic element (Eklipse) and the metal-oriented sound (Battle Beast).

Let’s talk about the main act now: Nightwish are back to Italy after three years from their last show here, with a new album and a remarkably new setlist, as well as Troy Donockley as an almost steady band member, since he will join the Finns throughout the whole tour. The sixth band member, we could say. The stage setting and mood of the show have changed a lot too, with a less impressive scenario but with a big screen behind the band displaying images and videos specifically created as a background to the songs played, as well as a “fairytale” opening, with a huge curtain covering the whole stage while it was being prepared, that also works as a “door” when “Taikatalvi” starts playing in the air. From behind the curtain a light shines, casting the shadow of a rocking chair where Marco Vietala is clearly sitting. As soon as the intro is over, the curtain is suddenly dropped, showing the band who proves to be in great shape right from the very first songs. The fright for Anette's health conditions fortunately turns out to be caused by a bad hand contusion, so there's no plaster preventing her from holding the mic while singing the songs one by one. “Wish I Had An Angel” and “Amaranth” follow, and “Scaretale” means business. Hietala's rage behind the mic sounds devastating, and it does even more on “Planet Hell”, one of the highlights of the evening, as he tells stories about phantoms and other gruesome things. We slow down a little bit with “Slow, Love, Slow”, a jazz tune that considerably breaks the rhythm, though this gets faster again on “I Want My Tears Back”, an energic, perfectly performed piece which risks to cause a few stiff necks. And from the grave, if we can say so, rises “Come Cover Me” (taken from the recently mistreated “Wishmaster”), re-arranged for the occasion in order for Troy to come in with his flute. The result is definitely praiseworthy, not only because the song perfectly fits Anette's voice, but also because it gets revamped and almost sounds like a new track.

And here's the core moment of the evening, the acoustic trio consisting of “The Crow, The Owl And The Dove”, “The Islander” and a re-arranged version of “Nemo”. If the first one almost flows on the quiet, “The Islander” unleashes a thundering choir in the venue that even covers Hietala's voice more than once. The new version of “Nemo”, perhaps the band's most famous song, achieves the same effect of “Come Cover Me”: it becomes a new and different piece, though it remains familiar to the audience. Needless to say, the feedback is beyond positive. It is also nice to see drummer Jukka Nevalainen leaving his pouf behind the drums and play a shamanic tambourine, giving a whole different sound to percussions on “The Islander” and “Nemo”. Thus we find ourselves wandering through Irish lands with “Last Of The Wilds”, before sinking into the fury of a perfectly cruel “Planet Hell”, one of the finest songs, as we already said. The audience goes into ecstasies and “Ghost River” sets the attentions high until “Dead To The World”, another great song from the past, closes the first killing part of the show followed by Gary Moore's cover of “Over The Hills And Far Away”. A little break and the band is back on stage, this time with a personal rendition of Sibelius' “Finlandia” introducing “Song Of Myself”, which still maintains a big impact though it has been cut of its final part. “Last Ride Of The Day” is the perfect, wonderful ending to the show, giving the audience the chance to say goodbye to the band with heavy headbanging, clapping hands and jumping.

It goes without saying that, after years on the road, Nightwish know how to entertain their audience really well. Right from the start it was clear that the evening was going to be successful, given that each bandmember was clearly in great shape since the beginning. Moreover, thanks to the great performances by the opening acts, we can say that this first Italian date of the Imaginaerum World Tour the show was a blast, both for critics and the audience.

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