Rarely does a live CD/DVD set live up to the hype, but Nightwish has certainly set the bar high with past releases such as From Wishes to Eternity and End of an Era. Many symphonic metal fans, myself included, consider the arrival of ex-After Forever vocalist, Floor Jansen of the Netherlands, into the band as a dream come true -- Jansen is unmatched in her tremendous, awe-inspiring vocal power and range, and has always been a phenomenal live performer. The combination of Jansen's enthusiasm and insanely versatile voice with Tuomas Holopainen's imaginative, inspired words and extraordinary songwriting skills will definitely be something beautiful on future Nightwish releases.
Showtime, Storytime contains the band's stunning set from Wacken Open Air 2013, as well as an intriguing documentary titled Please Learn the Setlist in 48 Hours. One can only speculate as to what exactly has happened with the abrupt 2012 departure of previous Nightwish vocalist, Anette Olzon, during the band's Imaginaerum tour in North America, and a good chunk of the documentary details the trials and extremely stressful moments the band experienced after the fact. In any case, the documentary offers unique insights into the band's on the road life, the pros and cons of touring, and the transition between vocalists (Olzon is not seen or heard at any point during the DVD). The band members explain how they made a spur-of-the-moment phone call to Jansen, who was ultimately more than a temporary fix -- the perfect fit for the band. "Goddammit if I've ever been as afraid as I was two hours ago," Nightwish keyboardist/main composer Tuomas Holopainen states immediately following the first Nightwish show with Jansen. Drummer Jukka Nevalainen and guitarist Emppu Vuorinen discuss several elements of the Nightwish touring life and the different continents of the world, and there is never a dull moment.
The setlist for the Wacken show, while not quite as impeccable as that of End of an Era, is dynamic and lively. Jansen's onstage presence is magnetic, and her effortless chemistry with the rest of Nightwish will give both longtime and new fans goosebumps. The opening one-two kick of "Dark Chest and Wonders" and "Wish I Had an Angel" brings back nostalgic feelings from 2004's Once, and Jansen masterfully does each of the songs justice. The remarkable power of her voice is truly something magnificent, and although the band's original vocalist Tarja Turunen is extraordinary in her own right, it should be noted that Jansen enunciates the words of the songs much more clearly, which is also a plus given that Holopainen has penned many breathtakingly beautiful lyrics over the years. Bassist/vocalist Marco Hietala is a fascinating presence, always humorous and with a fantastic, wild style of singing/screaming of his own, he is an important ingredient in Nightwish's live domination.
The main highlights of the concert include "She Is My Sin", "Bless the Child", "Ghost Love Score", and most importantly, the indescribably moving "Ever Dream", during which Jansen will almost certainly bring listeners to tears. Only a few moments are less than great, because even the most gifted vocalist in the symphonic metal scene cannot make obnoxious songs like "Ghost River" or "I Want My Tears Back" tolerable -- and somehow Jansen and "Amaranth" do not mix well, not that it was ever the most compelling Nightwish tune to begin with, anyway. One should also take note that Jansen is not the only new permanent member of the band. Troy Donockley, an English multi-instrumentalist, is wondrous onstage playing uilleann pipes and whistles. I particularly love his contribution to "Nemo".
Emotional, intense, dramatic, and engaging, Showtime, Storytime will surely not disappoint Nightwish fans. It is one of the most noteworthy releases of 2013, and is awakening my serious need to finally see this band live after listening for a decade.