NIGHTWISH at Hartwall Arena Finland and “Imaginaerum” World Movie Premiere

The long-awaited premiere of Nightwish’s “Imaginaerum” and preceding live show was easily Finland’s music event of 2012. Fans, press, friends of the band, everyone and their grandma travelled from all over the world to be in Hartwall Areena on this past Saturday night. And it was absolutely worth it!

Of course, the movie wasn’t the only matter of interest. As everyone should know by now, Nightwish had undergone yet another line-up change. After Anette Olzon was (not so) kindly given the boot, Floor Jansen has been brought in temporarily to fill in on female vocal duties. This was her first show with Nightwish in Finland, and naturally there was a lot of speculation whether Floor will manage to walk in these shoes.

Photo: Jana Blomqvist

Hartwall Areena was getting filled with people, while the stage curtain was covered with something that at first looked like toilet paper. I am still not sure what this decoration was supposed to represent. When the show started, the black curtain underneath was taken away, it became more obvious that the white things were in fact pieces of cloth (might still be paper for all I know). The wind was blowing through the holes and a projector was going in circles. Through it you could see a shade of Marco Hietala in a rocking chair, singing “Taikatalvi”. After that he threw the chair away and the whole band launched into “Storytime”. The white curtain finally fell down after a short while and the stage was presented in all its glory.

Photo: Jana Blomqvist

Decorations around Holopainen’s keyboard stand become more and more elaborate each time. Long way from the boat, now it’s a set of pipes that resembles Davy Jones’ organ. Who knows, maybe sooner or later he’ll be able to fit the whole Black Pearl in there. Marco and Emppu were their usual energetic selves, running around the stage and rocking on their guitars, while Jukka was high up on his drum throne, overseeing all the action. Above the stage was a screen, showing various graphics during the songs: a lot of amusement park themes, merry-go-round, aquatic themes and also eyes were looking out at us a few times.

Photo: Jana Blomqvist

Floor Jansen was the absolute star of the evening. It was such a relief to be able to listen to Nightwish live and not wince from all the shrieking that was there before. She was dynamic, headbanged and was simply quite the sight for sore eyes. While Hietala did most of the talking to the public, she didn’t hesitate to take the mic a few times and work up the crowd as well! I will even go as far as saying that by her stage presence, Floor reminded a lot of Tarja Turunen. In other words, she fits like a glove. Now that everyone saw what Jansen is capable of, the new speculations appeared as to whether she will be asked to stay in the band. Currently nothing is decided, she will continue singing through the next summer and then time will tell. All things given, Floor is the best the band could get in these circumstances.

Photo: Jana Blomqvist

I was hoping that some of the old songs will be played, now that the band again has someone who can pull it off. But the setlist didn’t go further back than “Century Child” album. Troy Donockley and Pekka Kuusisto joined Nightwish on stage for “I Want My Tears Back” and “Last of The Wilds”. There was a little break in the middle of the show, during which pyro dancers came out to the tunes of “Arabesque” and gave quite an incredible performance to entertain the public.

With all the stage effects: images, lights, pyros and overall atmosphere of the show, it was a jaw-dropping experience altogether – some sort of an explosive carnival where you get on the craziest ride ever and adrenaline bursts out of your ears. Unfortunately it had to end. Before announcing the last song Floor, whose Finnish skills haven’t gone any further “kiitos”, finally managed to say “hyvää iltaa” albeit a bit late. She said she learned some Finnish phrases for the night, but it all left her on stage, and we really can’t blame her. The last song was appropriately “Last Ride of the Day”. As you know safety comes first, so Marco put on some pilot goggles, in case it gets a bit too windy up there, when he plays the bass.

Photo: Jana Blomqvist

Obviously, nobody spared any expenses when it came to the fireworks. Once the song was over, Hartwall Areena could be sent to the moon with all the explosions that ensued. When it was finally safe, the band came together in the middle of the stage to bow for the public. After the waves of cheers and applause were done, everyone left for a long break, while the preparations were made for the movie screening and chairs were put on the floor.

About an hour later…

“Imaginaerum” the movie!

Disclaimer: in order to keep this spoiler-free, I will not mention the plot line or any specific scenes.
It is a very deep, dark movie with many autobiographical references leading to maestro Holopainen himself. Call it cinematographic therapy, if you please. It’s hard to keep track of what’s going on during the first half an hour, the seemingly disconnected scenes keep on changing and you will raise an eyebrow once or twice. But at some point the pieces of the puzzle start to fall together and you are able to put everything in place.

Nightwish as a band makes just two appearances, performing “Slow, Love, Slow” and “Scaretale”. You can see Tuomas through the movie as one of the incarnations of the main character – Tom Whitman (this name should already ring a bell).

The quality of footage is amazing. Being a fan of Stobe Harju’s work I expected nothing less. The slow-motion sequences, the fictional characters, everything leaves you in awe. However, keep in mind that there are some graphical moments, and the movie is not meant for children.

“Imaginaerum” is an absolute must-see for any fan of any Nightwish line-up. It is filled with many symbolical tiny details, and the viewer has to really pay attention to see them all. I suspect that in order to grasp it fully, it is necessary to see the movie a few times.
It is hard to tell if “Imaginaerum” could be interesting to someone who doesn’t know Nightwish at all. They might be impressed by the image quality or even relate to the plot, but I would expect them to misunderstand many things that open up to anyone, who has been following the band and their work over the years.

In a true Finnish way the movie ends with a happy ending, yet still a sad one, so don’t expect any Disney unicorns and pink rainbows. Just know that “there forever remains that change from G to E minor.”

Review: Tanja Caciur
Photo: Jana Blomqvist

Show setlist:
Dark Chest of Wonders
Ever Dream
Slow, Love, Slow
I Want My Tears Back
Last of the Wilds
Arabesque (pyro dancers)
Planet Hell
Ghost River
Song of Myself
Ghost Love Score
Last Ride of the Day

Photo: Jana Blomqvist
Photo: Jana Blomqvist
Photo: Jana Blomqvist

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