Kamelot – One Cold Winter’s Night

     Like Queensrÿche, Kamelot is such a talented group of musicians that when you do see them live you tend to be there for their performance and not for a stage show. You’ll headbang, yes, but much of the time will be spent watching the band play.
     I say this because I have seen both bands perform and at each show the crowd energy was similar. There was reverance for the band and the audience stood enraptured by the musicians, for the most part.
     Maybe it has something to do with how reserved the vocalist is, after all, it does seem that Geoff Tate and Roy Khan are cut from the same mold – both are excellent singers and both use dramatic body language when performing.

     One Cold Winter’s Night took place on what turned out to be a cold winter’s night at Rockefeller Musichall in Oslo, Norway on February 26, 2006. Fans of Kamelot know that this is vocalists Roy Khan‘s backyard; where he was born, raised, and resides with his family – Norway.
     The venue is not immense (capacity is around 1,350 warm bodies) but the show has its share of ambitions and the band is tight.
     Although the band might be a bit reserved onstage, the editing of this concert (Patric Ullaeus) is on par with the live performance DVD Black Symphony (Within Temptation). The camera spins, moves over the crowd, and gets some great shots of Casey Grillo drumming and Oliver Palotai playing keyboards.

     There is a show in all this. A variety of onstage guests, a bit of pyro, alot of dramatics, choir backup singers…
     Sascha Paeth joins the band onstage to perform Moonlight. Kamelot guitarist Thomas Youngblood‘s wife Mari Youngblood sings and plays the role of Elizabeth Bathory. Snowy Shaw plays the role of Mephisto. Simone Simons sings Marguerite’s role on The Haunting (Somewhere In Time). Elisabeth Kjærnes performs on Nights Of Arabia and March Of Mephisto.
     Many bands would not put the time and effort into a live visual representation (other than a music video) but again, Kamelot is a band with ambition. And though many of the moments are small (but for Elizabeth I, II, & III) they add an extra professional touch and dignity to the stage.

Set list for One Cold Winter’s Night:
01: Intro: Un Assassinio Molto Silenzioso
02: The Black Halo
03: Soul Society
04: The Edge Of Paradise
05: Center Of The Universe
06: Nights Of Arabia
07: Abandoned
08: Forever
09: Keyboard Solo
10: The Haunting
11: Moonlight
12: When The Lights Are Down
13: Elizabeth
14: March Of Mephisto
15: Karma
16: Drum Solo
17: Farewell
18: Curtain Call

Plus, there are many extra’s on the second DVD as well:
Halo Vision. Interviews with various band members and Simone Simons. Casey Grillo at ddrum company. Videos for the songs The Haunting and March Of Mephisto (uncencored version too). Making of The Haunting. Serenade. A live performance of March Of Mephisto (Sweden). and the usual picture gallery, discography, and band bio’s.

Again, this is a fairly ambitious effort for a concert DVD since it is not a huge event. The money you pay for the DVD is the same as a ticket to see the band live (not at a festival).

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Nightwish – End Of An Era

A few things about this DVD bug the ever-living-hell out of me.
 
The Editing – There is absolutely no possibility within the human realm that someone can get from one side of the stage all the way across to the other side of the keyboards in a single moment, the batting of an eye. BUT, it happens on this DVD an awful lot. There is also the angle of the cameras that make the band look as if they are moron’s, albeit talented moron’s. And, coinciding with the photo gallery, one could be easily led to believe that two concerts were actually held.

The Music – Seems a bit on the perfect side… I don’t go to a concert to hear exactly what is on the CD. If that were the case I would save my money and just stay home and listen to the CD. I know bands, even the best of them, make mistakes while playing live and vocalists never sound too damn good. WOW! This is almost too damn perfect. I would rather have all the imperfections of trueness than over-editing.

The Music – Yes, I repeated myself (read on).

Track/Set list for End Of An Era:
01: Dark Chest Of Wonders
02: Planet Hell
03: Ever Dream
04: The Kinslayer
05: Phantom Of The Opera
06: The Siren
07: Sleeping Sun
08: High Hopes
09: Bless The Child
10: Wishmaster
11: Slaying The Dreamer
12: Nemo
13: Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan
14: Ghost Love Score
15: Stone People
16: Creek Mary’s Blood
17: Over The Hills And Far Away
18: Wish I Had An Angel

There is not one song from Oceanborn or Angel’s Fall First. Granted, it is their set and they can do what they want, however, aside from Tarja Turunen, all the other members know it was to be her swan-song performance with the band. There are three songs from Wishmaster, four songs from Century Child, and eight from Once, plus the odd songs High Hopes (Pink Floyd cover), Stone People, Sleeping Sun (not originally on a Nightwish album), and Over The Hills…
     Where are Elvenpath, Sacrament Of Wilderness, Beauty And The Beast… Yes, it would have been a long show but it was her last show with them and it would have been a treat to hear what those songs sounded like after originally being recorded years ahead of this concert. Would they be reinterpreted? Slowed down, sped up?
It was Once Upon A Tour but it was also her last show with them and I don’t believe Tarja will ever return since she stated so on her latest release in the song Falling Awake.
     So, we are left to hear these songs sung by Annette (who will not sound like Tarja – Kudos for that Annette) and by a band that cannot bring forth the same emotion/feeling that Nightwish does when performing these songs. Both situations can be summed up like this: It is like hearing Vince Neil’s band perform Mötley Crüe, or taking Colonel Sanders out of Kentucky Fried Chicken (you take away the Colonel and you are doing nothing but frying just another piece of chicken). Sorry guys and gals, I did say I was honest.
     If you only just now discovered Nightwish and their back catalog, you may feel like you missed one hell of a magical moment in music and metal since you are finding out after the fact. There are many bands now that are similar in direction to Nightwish, but there is only one Nightwish.

As for the DVD itself, the concert, it is what it is. The last show we are able to see a glimmer of the aforementioned magic with a very large crowd of people before we are left wondering what happened less than twenty-four hours later.

In the bonus material, we do get to see the documentary “A Day Before Tomorrow” that does show animosity in spades – everything from sideways glances to barbed remarks to uncomfortable silences broken up by meager attempts at civil conversation.
     I think one of the more poignant moments in the documentary is at a festival like show in South America where the band is gathered to take a picture. Before this, Tarja is seen warming up her voice and the band enters her dressing area, she playfully begins to banter back and forth with Jukka who returns her banter with about as much emotion of a dead body on a battlefield.
     The next scene is the band prepping to go onstage. Marco is warming up with a few yells, group hug, and then nerve’s. The players head up the stairs for their intro with the camera following them until whoever is manning the camera abruptly stops and pans back down to where Tarja is left alone. The shot does not last long but it speaks more words than the band knows. It is a solitary, fearful display of uncertainness that seems to permeate the entire documentary and all of the band members who hide it behind anger, false-smiles (smile pretty the cameras on) and silence.
     Throughout the documentary is Nightwish’s very own Yoko Oh-No; Tarja’s husband Marcello Cabuli. My gawd, when they are all in the same room together the silence is deafening. It should be noted that whenever he is alone with the band members Marcello does make attempts to defuse the situation, some so damn goofy even they cannot help but laugh, but when Tarja returns the silence and downcast eyes begin anew.

The documentary also has pop-ups with questions answered by band members. What stands out is that Tarja has the most rock-star answers for the questions though she seems the least rock-star type.
     Another thing is the lack of Tarja’s presence when you feel she should be there standing besides the other band members but she mysteriously is there later in the shot. Is she there? Is she not there? What?
     The documentary does not reveal what really tore the band apart, just the slow build-up to an imploding end that no one within the band did a damn thing to stop.

The bonus material is small but the impact of it is huge. The concert is good aside from the editing that insults the watcher’s intelligence. I would rather see the entire performance without the cuts, mistakes be damned!

Within Temptation – Black Symphony

Filmed at Ahoy Arena, Rotterdam with accompaniment by The Metropole Orchestra, and the Pa’dam Choir, Black Symphony, in my opinion, is the most ambitious coupling of a metal band and orchestra that has been done.

Metallica and Scorpions both did it years ago but aside from music, there was nothing else. No stage show, no break in the middle for acoustic sets, no guest performances, no video screen as long as the stage is, no pyrotechnics… aside from stage lighting there was nothing but music and two bands that seemed as if they were nervous and had no clue as to what they should do. And, neither of these bands had live symphonies playing on their studio releases either so it was all new to them.

The show, “Black Symphony’ starts out with an orchestral piece, the choir joining in as they make their entrance onto the upper stage. Backstage, the band waits for their queue looking more anxious to get out on stage and begin the show than they do nervous to be performing in such a setting.

As Slayer’s Reign In Blood is considered the epitome of Thrash Metal and Dream Theater’s Images & Words is considered the epitome of Progressive Metal, I have to consider this show and the ensuing CD and DVD the epitome of Symphonic Metal (except the American CD release. Only thirteen songs of the 21 performed? Roadrunner Records, you blew it.) Plus, this show was directly responsible for the live acoustic performance An Acoustic Night At The Theater.
Having just listened to a pre-screening of Within Temptation’s next release The Unforgiving I can say that the sound they had at this show and previous releases does not make an appearance.
I guess, with the spectacle that is Black Symphony, the band has to go in a different direction because the show was an apex of their career. Watch it and ask yourself how they would top this. It really is a brilliant show and why try to top it?
Then again, as far as I am concerned, Sharon, Robert, and the band itself can do whatever the hell they want in music. Look how far they have come with this DVD and its later show/release, An Acoustic Night At The Theater. I for one don’t want to hear a part 2 to any of their albums and the two aforementioned shows are a pinnacle if not classic releases.

The concert contains many of WT’s well-known songs with Anneke van Giersbergen (ex-vocalist of The Gathering and vocalist of Ague de Annique), Keith Caputo (Life Of Agony), and George Oosthoek (ex-vocalist of Orphanage) joining the band onstage to sing.
There is pyro and explosions – the intro to Hand Of Sorrow is off the chain with these, stilt angels during the song Angel, and the crowd itself is loud and very responsive. The décor for the stage screen is a work of art. Bottom line – if you are going to do a show like this, this is the way to do it.

As mentioned In a previous article by me, Sharon den Adel sings twenty-one songs at this show and though each song is not just like the studio album, she goes the distance when many vocalists would say it was too much for them to do. When joined onstage by the other vocalists, the band is humble but with Sharon’s stage presence (and she has huge presence), they cannot outshine her although she is letting them shine. The same can be said for the band. The orchestra is onstage with them but it is Within Temptations stage.

Set list for Black Symphony:
1: Ouverture
2: Jillian (I’d Give My Heart)
03: The howling
04: Stand My Ground
05: The Cross
06: What Have You Done
07: Hand Of Sorrow
08: The Heart Of Everything
09: Forgiven
10: Somewhere
11: The Swan Song
12: Memories
13: Our Solemn Hour
14: The Other Half (Of Me)
15: Frozen
16: The Promise
17: Angels
18: Mother Earth
19: The Truth Beneath The Rose
20: Deceiver Of Fools
21: All I Need
22: Ice Queen

There are also many extras on the DVD including, interviews with the orchestra conductor, the band, and some fans, a short documentary, and what went on the day of the show (pre-production).
On the European version there is another DVD included that has another live show, Music videos from The Heart Of Everything, behind the scenes of the music videos, and video that the band recorded while on tour. Plus, there is video of WT performing at various award shows and in the studio while the orchestra is recording THoE. If you have a DVD player that is PAL capable, get the European version of this DVD.

Nightwish – End Of Innocence

End Of Innocence, released in 2002, is not the typical band DVD. There are videos, concert performances, photograph galleries in the “Extra” option and there is an “Extra of the Extra’s” option. The main choice is a documentary, or interview, with Tuomas Holopainen, Jukka Nevalainen, Tapio Wilska (yes, he is not in the band but he has done guest vocals and is a friend and apparent drinking buddy as you see on this DVD).
The DVD has many humorous moments: the boat motor that won’t start, Tuomas musing over the lyric “The scent of a woman was not mine…” as being not something a man would write, Jukka still wondering about the oak leave pictures and still not getting the reason for them, Tapio thinking something was wrong with Tuomas on the release of Century Child because the lyrics seemed so sad…

The island they are on, owned by Tuomas’s family, is also the same place Nightwish came into being; the place immortalized in Sacrament Of Wilderness from Oceanborn. There is a small dwelling on the island where much of the interview takes place, the sky is overcast and from the chosen attire worn by the people the weather is growing cooler. Along with the booze and the intimate setting, the pace of the documentary is slow and mellow, and relaxed: just three friends taking a day out to reflect and muse.

There are outtakes from backstage, in the studio while making Century Child, on the tour bus, at hotel’s; the band and crew playing pranks on each other and other bands, Tuomas in the state of F.U.B.A.R. and being led to his hotel room where he is lain on his bed. The crew, having noticed something peculiar with Marco Hietala, put a camera on an amplifier and recorded just a single concert and what he was doing (I’m not going to say but the look on his face when he notices the camera is priceless), and what a concert sounds like behind the drums while playing.
The interview is informative, introspective, and a bit nostalgic to the point of sadness as the discussion goes back and forth from the earlier times of the band to the recorded present. It is this intimacy that makes End Of Innocence compelling, so much so that the extra content seems piddling by comparison.

This DVD is still in circulation in the United States and can be purchased, counting whatever retailer you patronize has a distributor that carries releases not widely known (my CD store here in Missoula, Montana does, yeah me! Got me Kiske/Somerville, but the owner carries a wide selection of metal music from Europe).

Listing for End Of Innocence:

01: “The Whole Story” Documentary/interview

Extra:

01: Videos: Over The Hills And Far Away
                   End Of All Hope

02: Photo Gallery
03: Interview with Mtv Brazil
04: Live performance in Oslo, Norway (4th of July, 2003)
      01: Sleeping Sun
      02: Wild Child (W.A.S.P. cover)
      03: Beauty And The Beast
      04: She’s My Sin
      05: Slaying The Dreamer

05: The Extra Of The Extra’s

Live performance at Summer Breeze Festival 2002
      01: End Of All Hope
      02: Dead To The World
      03: 10th Man Down
      04: Slaying The Dreamer
      05: Over The Hills And Far Away
      06: Sleeping Sun

Supposedly, there is a hidden outtake of Tarja singing an Acapella version of Sleepwalker. I have never been able to unlock this.

End Of Innocence is worth the money you will spend on it. If you attempt to download it you will not get anything but the documentary if pirating. If you like Nightwish buy the damn thing and support the band (that goes for any band you like. If they don’t make money how can they continue making music?)

Nightwish – From Wishes To Eternity

Released in 2000, this concert took place in the bands native Finland. The setting is intimate, the venue  – dark, the crowd obviously loves them some Nightwish.
The concert took place during the Wishmaster World Tour; a time when the band was gaining in popularity around the world (except in the U.S. where they remained virtually unheard of by many).
The show, filmed in Tampere, had two guest vocalists: Tappio Wilska of once Finntroll and now Sethian and Tony Kakko of Sonata Arctica.

The setlist is as follows:
01: The Kinslayer
02: She Is My Sin
03: Deep Silent Complete
04: The Pharoah Sails To Orion (w/ Tapio Wilska)
05: Come Cover Me
06: Wanderlust
07: Crimson Tide / Deep Blue Sea (instrumental performance)
08: Swanheart
09: Elvenpath
10: Fantasmic (pt. 3)
11: Dead Boys Poem
12: Sacrament Of Wilderness
13: Walking In The Air
14: Beauty And The Beast (w/ Tony Kakko)
15: Wishmaster

The band is tight onstage which led to speculation of lipsyncing. However, anyone who has heard the studio produced versions of the songs can easily tell that there are to many musical changes for live performance to warrant this.
Emppu Vuorinen (guitar) changes lead ins, adds personal touches and plays in parts he did not on some songs.
Tuomas Holopainen stops playing his keys to headbang with Tarja during FantasMic.
Tarja Turunen can be heard more clearly and hardly uses the falsetto she does on the recordings. She also adds vocals as instrument to Walking In The Air and yes, she can be heard cutting notes short and not hitting others.
Sami Vänskä adds in more technical bass playing in spots.
Jukka Nevalainen adds double bass kick to songs were there are none on the original recordings and plays much faster.
Too, there are the chnages to some songs themselves.
Crimson Tide/Deep Blue Sea is a live performace only. They have never recorded the song in the studio.
Swanheart removes the second chorus and acoustic guitar break beforehand and there is no sampling of the second vocals used in the studio version.
Elvenpath is more clear in all aspects, played a bit faster, and leads in, medley style, to FantasMic, which only the last part of the song is played.
Yeah, so, whoever believes that this is a prior concert recording being used, and/or lipsyncing – find the nearest 20 story building and jump!

Near the end of the Once Upon A Tour, I read in an interview with Tarja Turunen where she stated she would like to do a tour where there was more of the older songs performed. Watching this DVD I can see why, the band was having fun and the audience wasn’t fifteen feet away from the stage.
There were some pyrotechnics used, explosions… Taking a page from Trans-Siberian Orchestra, they made it snow inside while playing Walking In The Air.
This concert, just my opinion, had a magical quality to it. The only member who did not interact in some way with the audience was Sami Vänskä. One of the most endearing things that took place was Tarja’s use (or attempt) at utilizing American English – the slang was a little 70’s and the last bit was Austin Powers all the way. American English, as I like to say, the bastardized version of the Queen’s English, is extremely hard to get especially when using street slang; we don’t freak out anymore, we get fuckin’ sick. It added to the innocence that would be missing from the band after this tour.

To be honest, the first time I watched this DVD I damn near cried at the live performance of Swanheart, it is so much better live; the emotion comes across in a way that cannot be captured in a studio.

Hopefully one day soon, this DVD will be re-released in the U.S. as it is hard to find domestically and the import price is atrocious (trust me, I got the import! Also got a credit card solely to order stuff from Europe where, it seems, all the cool shit comes out, can you say What Lies Beneath box set?).