Live Review : Nightwish + Beast In Black @ MEN Arena, Manchester on December 11th 2018

I've traveled all over this country and to the continent to see Nightwish, so it was quite nice for once to see them with just a simple twenty minute tram ride home. Though, to be honest I suspect booking the cavernous Manchester Arena may have been a slightly over-ambitious move on their part as it is only about at best, a third full and there was enough space at the back of the seating area to build a small nuclear reactor. Though I shouldn't really complain as taking residence in the biggest venue Manchester has to offer means that they have been able to bring their full mega production and that production includes obligatory support act that haven't played UK before.

Beast in Black are the band that Battle Beast founder Anton Kabanen formed after he was unceremoniously ousted from the very thing he created. Unsurprisingly, Beast in Black sound exactly like Battle Beast, down to the fact that Yannis Papadopoulos 's high pitched vocals could have easily come from the mouth of Battle Beast’s Noora Louhimo (keeping up?). But plagiarism aside, they are great fun and approach their set with a playful good humour which certainly enamours them to a crowd obviously unfamiliar with the band. Yannis banters with the audience and downs “British” beer and just genuinely comes across as happy to be here, he even promises to amend their 2019 schedule and play some UK shows next year. The band also join in with this informal and irreverent approach, there is plenty of guitar synchronization and some natty flashing glasses are worn for 'Crazy, Mad, Insane. Overall, Beast in Black seem to gain new converts tonight with their warm and lively performance and their poppy accessible power metal. The proof in the pudding is the number of conversations I overhear in the bogs praising the band, which is always a good sign.

It is a indication of the modern world that Nightwish have to make a cinema like announcement at the start of the show asking people to put their phones away, but it actually seems to work as there is definitely less arms with devices attached waving about exactly in my sightline. So with a clear view (for once) we get a fevered countdown and straight into, well a gentle instrumental opener of 'Swanheart' from ‘Oceanborn’ played by Cumbrian multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley. Rather than deflate the mood, it sets the tone for what is essentially a two hour journey through the band’s vast back catalogue. Yes we get the well-known sing-alongs of 'Nemo, 'Wish I had an Angel' and 'I want My Tears Backbut of far more interest is the inclusion of seldom heard gems such as ‘The Carpenter’, ‘Elvenpath' and ‘Dead Boy’s Poem. Floor Jansen (tonight sporting a get up that looks half Gladiator and half Barbarella) may be Nightwish’s third vocalist but the way she effortlessly owns a set of songs that where in the vast majority written for another singer shows that this is now very much her band. She just commands the stage every second that she is on it; whether it is praising the virtues of the Manchester Christmas markets, sharing wine with Tuomaus or headbanging violently to the many exquisite solos, she is without doubt the centre of attention. The fact that 'Elan' (one of only two songs aired tonight where she sung the original album version of) gets probably the biggest crowd reaction of the night shows once and for all whose band this now is.

Nightwish have become a slick, effective and highly competent arena act and tonight they are utterly amazing and mesmeric from beginning to end. Yes this is a huge show in the fact that there is big visuals, shed-loads of fire and un-environmentally friendly ticker tape but the focus through-out is the band and not the production. Even though the building is under-populated they still utterly own the place and prove that they are well and truly up there now with Metal’s big boys and girls.

Words by Stewart Lucas
Photography by Johann Wierzbicki