When Nightwish announced that they fired their inimitable vocalist Tarja Turunen back in 2005, everybody - including Yours Truly - was convinced that it was career suicide. Forget the amazing musicianship and leadership of "Steve-Harris-of-symphonic-metal" Tuomas Holpainen, or the subtle chemistry between the band members (check out their live songs on YouTube and see how tight they are), or the formidable back catalogue, which serves as a blueprint for countless imitators around the world. Nightwish was famous for Tarja. The Siren almost was Nightwish.
Fast-forward to 2007 and the announcement of a new album and a World Tour. Hold on, who will sing? The charismatic Viking Marco Hietala? He is a good singer, as is evident on 2002's "Century Child" and 2004's multi-million selling "Once", but, surely, he can't sing those sweet ballads. Then they revealed Anette Olzon (again search YouTube and see when she is unveiled for the first time - it's hilarious!)
The first album with Anette, "Dark Passion Play", is marginally different from their excellent back catalogue, yet it is quint-essentially Nightwish. "Amaranth", "Cadence of Her Last Breath" and the absolutely amazing epic "The Poet and the Pendulum" would sit comfortably on any of their albums. But, the songs seemed to have been tweaked to accommodate Anette's less flashy vocal style. I had my reservations as to how the old songs would sound like. Don't get me wrong. Anette is a wonderful singer with an angelic voice, yet Tarja was a different angel, you know?
And last night in the House of Blues in Los Angeles I was once again blown away by Holopainen's genius. Anette's lungs are not only up to par with Tarja's in older tunes, but she sings them with a passion that was lacking in Tarja's more trained voice. "Wish I Had an Angel", "Dark Chest of Wonders", and "Nemo" never sounded better. She is a perfect fit for Nightwish. It is perhaps injustice just to praise Anette about last night - the whole band were at their peak. I am absolutely convinced that Nightwish is the best live band around.
Thank you, Nightwish, for making last night an unforgettable experience. You deserve to reach higher and I am sure you will.
One last note is about Tarja - her collaboration to the Nightwish wagon is carved in stone and they can't take it away from her. Maybe she will be Paul Di'Anno of Nightwish?