Venue: Fillmore NY (New York, NY)
Opener: Urn, The Eternal
Label: Universal Music
If my calculations are correct in this, the USA has not had a visit from the singer known as Tarja Turunen since the summer of 2004 when she last toured these parts with the band Nightwish. Since that time a world of dramatics and other events found the singer adventuring out on her own and releasing new music for the fans she had made over the years. While she had released a holiday themed album in 2005, it was not until 2007 that a more Symphonic Rock oriented release would be unveiled. The album “My Winter Storm” was an interesting album that had elements of what fans expected from Tarja and also a few melodies that came as a complete surprise. The very melodic release showcased the singers beautiful voice but would not be as bombastic as many had come to accept her when she fronted Nightwish. Tonight would be the first night of the singers US Tour and I was very happy to be a part of the fun as she returned to us after far too long an absence. The gig would be at the Fillmore NY and offer up two interesting openers by way of Urn and The Eternal. Here is how the night went if you were not there to enjoy it.
Urn: I walked in on this Chicago based outfit in what appeared to be the middle of or actually very close to the end of their set which was some pretty cool crushing Doom Metal. After hearing a few melodies from them I was actually saddened by my tardiness since they were.quite good for this genre. With the amount of bands doing this kind of stuff these days I have to say that I felt ardent followers of this scene would enjoy them. That being said, the band is comprised of both male and female members, with guys handling the guitars while the ladies deliver the keyboards and drums. The keyboardist also sings and steps out from the boards for a couple of tracks and this is what we caught most of. They are currently signed to a label called Rotting Corpse Records whom I have never heard of before tonight and while they had several EP’s and a full length available, they were announcing a new CD was coming out soon with oversized cards. The cards allowed the interested to get the band to sign them or just to tell them about this upcoming release which is entitled “Scriblings Of A Forgotten Soul”.
The Eternal: I was surprised to find one of the live touring members from Virgin Black fronting this band, and perhaps I should not be so amazed because guitarist Mark Kelson was only filling in with the band when they came over here in 2007 in the first place. In The Eternal the guitarist holds two positions with the second being the bands vocalist and together with his bassist and drummer deliver a slightly similar Doom Metal vibe to that of Virgin Black but with no keyboards nor Operatic elements. It was a steady slow crushing of the skulls from these guys and seemed to be going over rather well. To my knowledge this would be the bands first time over here from their native Australia and with the ever growing Doom Metal scene that is making its mark in the states I am sure that this will not be the last that we hear from them. The band had an album for sale entitled “Kartika” which based on what was performed this evening is bound to serve all of your Gothic and Doom Metal needs. I would definitely see them once again and you should plan on making them part of your agenda as well. Now the stage was set for Tarja to make her grand return and while the equipment was switched around a giant curtain was hung from the front of the stage.
Tarja: The singer hit the stage to a great amount of applause but the curtain that was set up would remain in place as she performed the first number with light shooting behind it for a very artsy and dramatic effect. Some people loved the premise while others did not because the true excitement of seeing a performer right up close who you have missed for so long is a very tangible energy. I know that I would have preferred she make a grand entrance after the band had begun to play but in any event when the curtain was drawn she was right there in front of all the eager eyes which seemed to shine all the more brighter from the moment that she appeared. Her first song would be “The Boy and the Ghost” from her “My Winter Storm” CD and as one listened to the set as it progressed over the course of the night they would realize that a healthy portion of it was devoted to the release. When it was all added up at the end it seemed as though she had delivered some twelve numbers from the album and that only surpasses the amount of new material that Rush fans were treated to during their “Snakes and Arrows” tour. Had she delivered the full album I would have compared this to the Iron Maiden practice during their own “A Matter Of Life and Death” tour where the fans received the entire new release and then a couple of choice hits.
I reviewed the singer’s album many months ago and was somewhat on the fence about it because I wanted more punch from such an incredible vocalist and yet in the live sense I had to admit that the new solo material was working out very well. Part of this had to be based on the performers doing the music justice on the stage and the singer was to be commended on her choices for the touring band. Tarja had assembled a fantastic band which was made up of the following talented individuals – Mike Terrana (on drums, and formerly of Masterplan, Savage Circus, Rage and Yngwie Malmsteen), Maria Ilmoniemi (Keyboards), Oliver Holzwarth (bass and from Blind Guardian, ex-Sieges Even), Alex Scholpp (guitarist and ex-Farmer Boys), and finally Max Lilja (cello for Hevein, and ex-Apocalyptica). As a fan of what many of these players had done in their other bands I felt that Tarja could do no wrong by having them accompany her on her solo journeys.
Tarja spoke with a soft voice to the audience on a number of occasions and honestly seemed very happy to be here performing for those who attended. She apologized for being away for so long and mentioned that she did really want to play over here for us. She was coming off as genuine for the fans and was for the most part a consistent smile when she was not keeping a more intense visage based on the notes that were coming out of her. As she sang one realized just how amazing her voice still was and for many of the audience here she still is the voice of the band Nightwish for us, even though the band had moved on and replaced her with Anette Olzon. The night’s first rendition of a Nightwish number would come via “Passion And The Opera” which while a great song I would have really rather heard her do either “Walking In The Air” or “Sleeping Sun” from this release based on the overpowering impact that they have on the mood of a show when performed. This tune was soon followed by what was a total surprise as she delivered her former band’s song “Dead Gardens”. The surprise came based on Nightwish not really playing this great number from their “Once” album. Tarja would periodically slip off to the side stage area in order to make a number of outfit changes this evening and these all added to the overall atmosphere of the night. Everyone knows that the singer is a stunningly beautiful woman and with each change was showing off her style better and better. Needless to say there were a lot of cameras working on overdrive this evening and it was almost as bright in the audience from all of their flashes as it was on stage from the main lighting rigs.
Tarja would lose me for a moment with her rendition of Alice Cooper’s “Poison” but that is more of a personal thing with me as I never saw the Shock Rockers material as being very Operatic worthy. Of course she would redeem herself quickly with “Wishmaster”, a song that remains one of my very favorites from the Nightwish catalog. The night would also give us a killer drum solo from Terrana who is a monster player and there was also a brief interlude where Tarja sat at a small keyboard as she sang. The set would close out with the slower “Calling Grace” and this surprised me as I had seen some advance set lists that found the night being completed by “Over The Hjlls And Far Away” which is much more of a show stopping tune. All in all this was an incredible night of music that no one who was present tonight would soon forget but therein lies the problem for you see the crowd was less than satisfactory in my eyes. Fillmore NY or Irving Plaza as it is still called by longtime visitors holds at least 1200 fans and tonight there was only about a ¼ of that number in the room. It made me wonder where all of those Metal fans who had rallied behind the singer when she moved on from Nightwish were because clearly there were more than 300 or so such fans in the Big Apple. I wasn’t willing to hear that this was based on Nightwish themselves performing on the coming Saturday because there were so many who reported back to me that they were done with the band now that Tarja was no longer a part of the lineup. I had my issues with the band back then as well but continued to support their musical endeavors and also was primed and ready to see how the true Diva of Symphonic Metal would be doing on her own. Perhaps this was more of a promotional issue and maybe the word just didn’t get out but if this was the case the fans are not paying attention to those mediums who offer updated calendars about shows that we should all be present at. My hope is that this didn’t bother her too much as she surely didn’t show it on the stage but with this being her very first appearance as a solo artist in the states I was admittedly embarrassed by the lack of presence. In any case, the fans who were here tonight had been offered an intimate night of music and many bought her logo t-shirts and the CD that was being made available. They sang along to the melodies they knew and kept Tarja smiling at every turn. She didn’t need our help at all because her voice is as powerful as ever and it has been missed very much by all of those who enjoyed what she had done with her previous band. My hope is that she comes around again sometime soon and that her new material continues to explore musical territory that is in need of her particular style.
The Eternal Set List:
1. Means For An Ending
3. Without Reason
Tarja Set List
1. Boy and The Ghost
2. Lost Northern Star
3. My Little Phoenix
4. Passion and the Opera
5. The Seer
6. Dead Garden (instead of Over the Hills) . nw doesn play
7. I Walk Alone
8. Ciaraon’s Well Band Solo
9. Ciaran’s Well
10. Sing For Me
12. Enough (new song)
13. Minor Heaven/The Reign/Oasis
16. Die Alive
17. Calling Grace
18. Over The Hills & Far Away (listed but cut)