Moscow, Russia, August 24, 2001
Can you believe that a show in Moscow can be better than the same band's show in Wacken? Nonsense, you say? Nope, it happened exactly this way with the Finnish neoclassic power metal combo whom I managed to see twice in less than a month. What's even more unbelievable, the Moscow gig had a better sound. A truly unique event!
To begin with, the news of the forthcoming show caused great agitation among fans of good music (not only metalheads) in Moscow and in other cities. As a result, almost all tickets were sold out one week before the gig. On the day of the event people asking for an extra ticket were approaching me all the way from the subway to the concert hall. I never saw anything like that at a Moscow metal gig before. Then, the police and security were surprisingly polite to the fans (according to local standards). At least, I didn't see them beat anybody or kick a person out of the hall or not allow somebody in. On the downside, I expected to see a lot of licensed CDs on sale in the venue, as it had been the case at gigs involving bands released in Russia by FONO Records before, but this time only the four Nightwish CDs were available.
Soon ater I got in the lights went out and the openers, Moscow's leading neoclassic metal band Catharsis, hit the stage. In my opinion, Catharsis were the best pick for the opener, but on that day their show was a bit weaker than usual. The mixing was, frankly speaking, quite poor, with drums by far louder than anything else, and one of the guitars having a very raw sound. Vocalist Oleg Zhilyakov was visibly nervous, and his singing on the opening track was hardly heard at all. The band pulled itself together on the next song and continued on a much higher level, but still, I've seen them putting on much better shows in Moscow clubs before. Nevertheless, the audience welcomed Catharsis as it seldom does to openers. At least half of the floor was waving arms and banging along on faster tracks, and the applause at the end of each song was none less than astonishing. I do hope that participation in this gig will help this promising band, but with Russian bands... you never know what happens next.
After half an hour Catharsis left the stage, and preparations for the main set started. They took no less than an hour, but they were worth it, for when the five Finns finally started playing, their sound was excellent. Having heard Nightwish at Wacken, where they were among the poorest sounding bands, and knowing miserable acoustic capacities of the majority of local halls, I was really afraid of what I was about to hear in Moscow. However the sound that came from the speakers impressed me by its coherency and power. Every instrument, except probably the bass guitar, was heard clearly, and Tarja's voice was beyond any criticism. A true opera singer and a beautiful woman, she broke hearts of almost every man in the hall, and even though background choirs were sampled, it was understandable for one woman cannot handle three or four vocal parts at the same time. A part of keyboards was sampled too, as was male vocal parts on the opener "The Kinslayer". On "10th Man Down" the band did use an extra singer to do growling. It was Wilska from Nattvindens Grat, who also helps Nightwish a lot in the studio. By the way, his appearance raised a huge cheer from the crowd, which was already over-excited by Tarja. It's a pity that they practically abandoned male vocals after the first record. Speaking about the audience, its response to the show was excellent. Almost the entire floor was jumping and singing along, though there were some idiots who preferred to yell some crap making it so loud that even Tarja could not be heard. A dude who was standing behind me shouted "Faggots!" all the time, so I finally had to change my location in the hall. Why come to the show if you don't like the band, I wonder? Nevertheless, most of the people liked the concert a lot, and how can you stay indifferent to hits like "Wishmaster" or "Elvenpath" and the beautiful woman performing them? As to the set list, it was practically identical to what Nightwish performed at Wacken, only "FantasMic Pt. 3" and "Walking In the Air" were added. The rest of the set included "Elvenpath" from the first record, a couple of tunes off "Oceanborn", two new tracks from "Over The Hills And Far Away" and plenty of tunes from "Wishmaster". Some may not like the ratio, but even the songs that did not impress me in studio versions sounded much better live. Unfortunately, the show was again very short, only some 65 minutes, which was a pity for the crowd eagerly demanded more. Some people claim that the band left the stage early because some idiot threw a beer glass at Tarja, others quote Tuomas as saying that Tarja had caught a cold, but I think that she is just not trained enough to sing longer than one hour. She started making mistakes already on "Sacrament Of Wilderness", which was the last song in the main set, though she managed to recover by the time the band returned for the encore. Anyway, I think I'd had worse impressions of the show if Nightwish played longer, but with poor vocals.
Summing up the story, I woudn't go as far as saying things like "This is the best show in my life" or even "This is the best show I've seen in Moscow this year". I would only say that I am very seldom as happy after shows as I was after the Nightwish gig. The entire atmosphere was very warm and friendly, and even though it was still a metal show, there was not so much aggression in the hall as there is usually at metal gigs around here. I guess this is mainly thanks to the band (I would like to single out the drummer who impressed me the most of all instrumentalists), the lovely lady behind the mic, and to their great music which has the ability to touch hearts of so many people. It's a pity Moscow seldom sees shows like this. After all, there are not many bands like this in the world.
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