(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Concert review - Nightwish with Kamelot

28 September 2012 (Ogden Theatre, Denver CO)

It proved to be a fairly challenging evening for Nightwish. After Kamelot's set, Tuomas Holopainen from Nightwish came out with Troy Donockley and told us that lead singer Anette Olzon was ill and in the emergency room. They asked the crowd if they should try to do the show or cancel it. With the audience's support, Nightwish played a full set with Elize Ryd and Alissa White-Gluz from Kamelot sitting in on several songs. It wasn't the show that anyone wanted to have, but Nightwish, Ryd, White-Gluz, and the audience all worked together to make the best of the situation.

It was quite a surprise to find out on Monday that Nightwish and Olzon were parting ways in the wake of the Denver show. On her blog, Olzon appears to be upset that the band didn't cancel the Denver show. Nightwish is continuing the tour with Floor Jansen sitting in on lead vocals.

Kamelot kicked off their set with a theatrical start and plenty of guitar grind. Their new singer, Tommy Karevik, powered the songs with his Gothic style vocals. He and bass player Sean Tibbetts stalked the stage, creating a constant dynamic tension.

Karevik worked the crowd, inciting them with a raised fist to chant to the driving beat of the song. This proved to be the band's signature move. Whenever energy flagged or needed to reach the next level, Karevik or one of the other bandmates would lead the chant, punching into the air. It may have been a practiced gesture, but the band was so engaged that we all accepted it at face value and joined in.

Kamelot was fairly tight. Casey Grillo's double kick drum propelled the songs forward with a solid gut-punch intensity. Thomas Youngblood's guitar led most of the songs. His rhythm guitar riff on The Human Stain was particularly tight. Youngblood had decent chops and stage presence, but Karevik was a stronger face for the band. This indicates that the band made a good decision for their new lead singer.

The backing vocalists Elize Ryd and Alissa White-Gluz added a huge presence when they joined in. White-Gluz brought a wicked metal queen vibe, full of snarl and sex appeal. Ryd was more sultry and had the richer voice. Kamelot was smart to have them on the tour and even smarter to give the women significant roles in the songs. On Sacrimony, the two women reprised their guest vocal roles from the recorded version. Ryd's soaring voice summoned a sweet desperation and White-Gluze's growl was dark and threatening. When the two added their harmonies to Karevik's voice, it took the song over the top.

Kamelot delivered a solid metal show performance, with enough attitude and presence to satisfy. Their set was well paced.

The show started with an orchestral swell. The prerecorded music's slow build created a sense of anticipation that carried into Storytime. As mentioned above, Nightwish performed without Anette Olzon's rich vocal range and expressiveness. Ryd and White-Gluz joined forces to cover Olzon's part. They did their best, but it was hard for them to sell the songs while referring to the lyrics.

The next song nearly derailed the whole set. When the band started playing Wish I Had an Angel, Ryd began singing Amaranth. The music ground to a halt and bass player Marco Hietala straightened her out. Without his humor and avuncular manner, the crowd might have turned against the band. A couple of songs later on Scaretale, Hietala even joked about doing both his and Olzon's part, saying he was happy to get to the section of the song he knew.

It still seemed a little shaky when Nightwish launched into a mostly instrumental version of I Want My Tears Back, one of the high points of the new album, Imaginaerum. They asked the audience to sing the verses and the band settled for singing on just the chorus. By the second chorus or so, the crowd was engaged. Troy Donockley sat in with his uilleann pipes, laying down a sweet solo, then setting up a call-and-response with guitarist Emppu Vuorinen.

By the time they moved into the rich Celtic strains of The Islander, the crowd was fully behind the band. The rest of the show went smoothly as the band balanced their songs between dark mystery, cathartic shred, and emotional expression. Ryd's return later in the set was welcome as she brought back a taste of the vocal sound we were all missing. Singing on Nemo, she did an excellent job covering Tarja Turunen's airier sound.

It may not have been the full Nightwish experience we all wanted, but it was a great show. The biggest regret was that the setlist seemed a bit short.

More photos on my Flickr.

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