Tuesday, May 12, 2009
I guess that I've always been a rock music affectionado, and I've spent a big part of my life, at least since the teenage years, on a quest to find good bands and musicians involved in that genre. For me however, music slowly went downhill after the end of the 60's. It didn't happen all at once of course, and truth be told, there is always good music and creativity to be found in rock music as well as any other genre. Still, as the years passed, it became more and more difficult for me to find anyone new that could satisfy my musical cravings.
When KXUA, the student-run radio station at the University of Arkansas first came on the air in the spring of 2000, a Saturday night program called From the Crypt had its debut. Hosted by Death Mistress Sarah White, the program featured a genre of music, which I'd never heard of - gothic and goth industrial. It was on this program that I was given the first hints that I had been missing out on something. On her program, the Death Mistress played music by groups such as Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshies, Sisters of Mercy and Type O Negative. For me, the music was fresh and exciting, but although I listened to From the Crypt religiously, the music played was already somewhat old wave. When the program went off the air two or three years later, all I was left with were a few CD's by Type O and the Sisters of Mercy. Not being nearly as adept on computers and the internet at the time as I am now, I was doomed to several more years of musical isolation. Then it happened:
About a year and one-half ago a teenage friend, with whom I enjoyed talking about music, handed me a CD entitled Dark Passion Play. The CD was by a Finnish group called Nightwish, and the music he explained, was of a type that he called symphonic metal. As I took the album home and gave it a listen, I quickly realized that this group's music is incredible! It was a perfect blend of hard rock and/or metal with its power chords, excellent female vocals balanced by good male vocals, choir in the background, symphonic sounding keyboards, and excellent guitar work - pure genius in my book! I started buying more of Nightwish's CD's to the point where I now have just about everything that they have done.
Becoming familiar with this incredible band, along with my improved use of the internet, helped me to discover other similar groups that played in this symphonic-metal genre. From these, I branched out to still others, who while not necessarily a part of the symphonic genre, were equally creative and innovative in their musical creativity - most of these hearkening from Europe. Still, I only mention these others in passing right now because, although I absolutely love their musical contributions, this story is about Nightwish.
About six months ago, I happened to go to the band's official website. As I looked at the cities they would be playing in as part of their Dark Passion Play tour, my eyes froze on a line that said, May 9: Diamond Ballroom, Oklahoma City. At first I couldn't believe my eyes; after all, although this musical group plays to sold-out audiences in some of Europe's largest arenas and venues, they are not very well known here in the United States. Still, upon making this discovery, I knew that I just had to go; and, within a few days, my sister and her partner, both recent Nightwish converts, as well as myself had our concert tickets. All we had to do was be patient for the next six months.
The six months passed and this past Saturday was the big day. With great anticipation we set out for what would be an incredible musical event.
The Diamond Ballroom turned out to be an excellent venue for the concert. Basically, the place is a large honkytonk with an adequate stage, seats and tables set way back opposite the stage, a large dance/standing area, and a couple of bars on either side of the floor. I had VIP tickets, which meant that I could do the meet and greet. I don't idolize people, but I do respect and give honor to those who show creative genius and/or make positive contributions to the world. So, I was extremely happy to actually get to meet the band before the concert. Then, I bought myself a beer and waited for the festivities to begin.
Nightwish is a five-person band, which sometimes brings in other musical guests to play with them. It consists of composer and keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen, lead-vocalist Anette Olzon, Marco Hietala on electric bass guitar and vocals, Empuu Vuorinen on rhythm and lead guitar, and Jukka Nevalainen playing the drums. Each is an incredible talent in their own right.
As is usually the case, there was an opening band; so, Nightwish didn't get started until a little after 10:00 pm. Of course, there was an interval between the exiting of the first group and the on-stage appearance of the night's headliner. As the various technicians took to the stage in order to do the sound checks the anticipation continued to build. "Who's that; Is it them?" people would ask.
The techies soon exited the stage, the lights dimmed and the excitingly beautiful music called Crimson Tide began to play. Suddenly, hoots and screams emanated from the crowd as Tuomas, Marco, Jukka and Empuu took to the stage and began the into to Seven Days to the Wolves. They were soon followed by Anette, who as usual, delivered a stunning performance. From that moment on, they held the audience in the palms of their hands. In some ways, the rest of the concert was a blurr. Although the performance lasted for eighty or ninety minutes, it seems as though it only lasted for about ten. Of course, this short amount of time only allows them to play a small fraction of their songs, as they have so much wonderful music that it would likely take the entire night, if not longer, to play all of it.
I estimate that about 400 or 500 people attended the concert. In one sense, this is sad because Nightwish is internationally known and has performed to sold-out venues all over the world. Just what is it about the U.S. media that keeps the population so unaware about the rest of the world anyway? Still, due to the relatively small number in attendence Saturday night, we were all able to watch the performance up close. There was plenty of room to move around in order to take photos or to view the performance from another angle. As each member of Nightwish interacts with the audience on a personal level and moves all over the stage, the possibilities for photos were endless.
All too soon the concert came to an end. Guitar picks and drum sticks were thrown into the adoring crowd, the final bow was made, and an evening with Nightwish came to an end. It is Wednesday morning as I write this story, and I still feel as though I'm on a cloud. That's what attending a concert with these people will do to a person. My sister and her friend also attended; they feel the same. I'm very grateful that this supergroup took the time to perform for us, a relatively small crowd, in Oklahoma City.
In early September the Dark Passion Play tour will end when Nightwish will be welcomed back to Finland at the Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, where they will be joined by another popular group known as Apocalyptica for a huge mega concert. I've got four months to figure out a way to get there.