Last Night: Nightwish at the Culture Room

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November 14, 2007

Culture Room

Better Than: Staring at the cleavage of a hot European rocker chick stuffed into a tight, leather corset. Okay, so maybe that's not so bad.

When the lights went down and the guitars came up in the Culture Room last night, Nightwish, the melodic metal juggernaut from Finland, had something to prove. For the stringy-haired mob, packed to sweaty capacity, this was a full-on test.

For those not in the symphonic metal know, this is the group's first tour with new frontwoman, Anette Olzon, and she has an impressive corset to fill in order to replace beloved bellower, Tarja Turunen. Nightwish fans are as loyal as they are eclectic. The crowd crackled with pops of Russian, German, and, of course, a healthy dose of Finnish. Some waved the Finnish flag over the crowd. And the local metalheads were more than happy to share an elbow or two in the mosh pit. (Yeah, seriously, people still mosh.)

But no matter where they were from, the most loyal subjects to these metal monarchs worshiped Tarja like a Nordic goddess. Her deep, powerful, operatic voice could melt a Finnish ice hockey rink. Anette has no such background. But she did come equipped with an arsenal of new songs, written for her voice – softer, not nearly as full. She also had the band of axe-wielding, keyboard-pounding, drum-crushing, hair-slinging power performers to back her up.

The majority of the set list came from their newest album, Dark Passion Play, but the first time Anette commandeered one of Tarja’s songs (“Dark Chest of Wonders”), some gruff headbangers sneered and shook their heads disapprovingly.

Yet in pigtails and a tight, black corset that put a tingle in the pants of half the crowd, Anette’s sugar-coated vocal cords fit well with the rest of the band. She harmonized well with the impressive voice of Marco Hietala (who happens to also play the bass), and she purred into the microphone between songs in an adorable Finnish accent that managed to turn the heart of every metal-head in the place. It was clear: the new girl might not have the same power, but she’s warmer in all sorts of different ways.

The value of brevity, however, is lost on Nightwish. At least one song they played pushed the 13 minute mark. Lead guitarist Emppu Vuorinen swung his instrument with the gusto of a seasoned lumberjack, sawing off solos and shredding through the beastly riffs, looking up and winking to the balcony.

So did the fans take to Nightwish’s new woman, with her bouncy brassiere and tamer vocals? Throwing their horns to the sky and flinging their greasy, black hair in a Euro power frenzy, they did.

Personal Bias: I have a crazy thing for European woman who can lather up a packed house of smelly, desperate men.

Random Detail: By the end of the show, there was a fantastic collection of frustrated, pouting girlfriends lingering in the entrance area with sore feet because they wore heels to a metal show they didn’t really want to go to anyway (but their boyfriends talked them into it).

By the Way: If you multiplied the number of black T-shirts boasting names of European bands you’ve never heard of by the number of horribly unkempt sideburns, you would get roughly how many dollars the Euro will be worth at the end of the Bush administration.

–Tara Nieuwesteeg

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