Finland is funland again – Nightwish and Lähiöbotox at Helsinki Ice Hall

Author Ossi Kumpula - 29.4.2022

Last Sunday’s Nightwish show at the ice hall in Helsinki was originally scheduled to happen already last August in Kaisaniemi. The show was first pushed to December 2021, then again to April 24th of this year when it finally happened. An all too familiar story for all too many bands and gigs over the last couple of years, yet all well that ends well. The ghost of Covid-19 was not the only spectre that haunted last Sunday’s performance, for apparently vocalist Floor Jansen was feeling severely unwell during their preceding show in Tampere. Whatever the undisclosed ailment was, it had receded enough for the singer and the rest of the band to deliver a spectacular show in Helsinki.

Lähiöbotox served as the supporting act for Nightwish. The Helsinki-based group, formed in early 2018, was slated to perform with Nightwish already at their twice-postponed show in Kaisaniemi, so it was fortunate that they could make it to the re-scheduled date as well. More fortunate still was the fact that the band had just released their second album “Itä-Metal” the previous Friday, so they were able to incorporate a bunch of new songs into their set. Rap metal is not a particularly popular sub-genre of heavy music in Finland, and this was evident in the somewhat lackluster response from the Helsinki crowd. In the hundreds of concerts I’ve witnessed over the years, however, I’ve seen much worse turn-outs for a supporting act, and Lähiöbotox delivered their fares with a gusto that infected many on the standing floor. Lähiöbotox in not just a soapbox for the two rappers fronting it, but a full-fledged band with real talent, as was evident from the guitar solos that pierced the air in the cool ice hall. Lähiöbotox may not make my personal playlist, but their live energy and passion is duly noted.

Following Lähiöbotox’s set a giant curtain displaying an hourglass was dropped to veil the stage, and the anxious wait for Nightwish began. The wait, which in fact had already started back in August 2021, was finally over at 9 p.m. when the curtain dropped and drummer Kai Hahto began the festivities to a thunderous applause from the crowd. “Music“, the opening track of the band’s latest album “Human. :II: Nature.”, was played partially by Hahto as an intro for the concert. The rest of the band joined Hahto onstage for “Noise“, the song to kick off the concert for real. Floor Jansen set an example for others to follow with her impressive headbanging, and the energy and excitement that had built up during the evening were released all at once. While observing the crowd reaction to “Noise” it felt almost surreal to think the single had debuted well over two years ago and played live only a handful of times. “Planet Hell” kept the energy and heat alive with pyrotechnics that were surely felt in every corner of the ice hall. Troy Donockley left the stage for this song, as he did with others in which he had neither instrumental nor vocal duties to perform.

For the next two hours, Nightwish marched forth essentially the same set they did in Oulu last summer, which was their first gig of the new album cycle in front of a live audience. Only “Sleeping Sun” was swapped in favor of “She Is My Sin“, which is undoubtedly the faster track of the two. The concert was nearly flawless despite a few issues. There is no way around the fact that the absence of Marco Hietala has left a void in the band the new bassist is simply unable to fulfill at this time. It would be unfair to even expect it of him at this point, since he hasn’t had room to grow into his new role as a member of Nightwish due to the glaring lack of live shows. Additionally, the band has made an obvious and previously noted decision to do away with almost all operatic vocals even in older songs that they are an elemental part of. Personally I feel this is an unfortunate and unnecessary waste of Floor’s talents, which is not to say she isn’t stellar in the styles she does utilize in Nightwish. Last and least criticism, two songs on the set, “She Is My Sin” and “Ever Dream“, suffered a bit from uninspiring graphics on the giant background screen, a fault that was apparent only because the screen provided such great visual support for the other songs.

Aside from these issues, the concert was close to flawless indeed. The band and crowd alike were imbued with a sense of wonder, gratitude and relief that the concert was actually taking place, something many might not have believed until the opening tunes. The setlist was a good mixture of old and new, with “7 Days to the Wolves” an especially welcome surprise. Stylistically the band presented slower and faster as well as somber and more joyful tunes to create a sufficiently diverse ride, even though the two epics that closed the evening, “Ghost Love Score” and “The Greatest Show on Earth“, were a bit overwhelming when heard back-to-back. As an icing on the cake, the band were presented well deserved platinum discs for “Human. :II: Nature.” prior to the show, and Floor made sure to share the joy with the audience. With the nightmare of Covid-19 finally receding in the rearview mirror, Finland is indeed funland again as Donockley observed, and I wish these musicians fun times in all the lands they visit in support of their latest album.

Text: Ossi Kumpula

Pictures: Hannu Tiainen