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Monday
Oct012012

Nightwish/Kamelot in Salt Lake City - the reward for months of planning

We've had this trip planned for around six months, the last of our big summer of metal travels. We split the drive from Bozeman to Salt Lake City ("SLC") roughly in half, staying in Rexburg, Idaho on Friday night and rolling into SLC mid-afternoon on Saturday. Our only complication was my son, Zane's, sudden onset of some GI ailment, leaving us unsure how much of the show he was going to see. But we managed to get the kids a quick swim in the salty swimming pool at Howard Johnson's, a satisfying dinner at P.F. Chang's and then we headed to the The Complex for the show.

We immediately knew that we'd "arrived" as we drove up. There was a line around the corner, down the block and all the way to the train tracks. This was definitely a metal crowd, lots of black attire and concert T's. It became clear we were facing yet another complication once we'd stood in line for 30 minutes after the doors were scheduled to open. Apparently sound checks had run over by 60-90 minutes and they'd only been able to let 400 people into the main lobby of the venue. Fortunately, much like Calgary, this was also a well-behaved metal crowd,

Eventually the line started moving and we all were able to redeem our Will Call codes to get into the show. It was fortunate that this show had no opening acts, just two headliner-caliber bands. Once we were all in the venue, there wasn't any further delay; Kamelot kicked into their set with a vengeance. I've never seen Kamelot before and was immediately impressed with their energy and polish. I was especially struck by the energy of their new vocalist, Tommy Karevik, and his ability to get the crowd involved. More so than recent shows we've seen in Sweden and Canada, the crowd in Salt Lake City made lots of noise, chanting, yelling and singing along throughout the set.

The four of us also had an extra connection to Kamelot, being big Amaranthe fans. We really enjoyed seeing Elize Ryd, one of Amaranthe's three singers, performing various lead and backup vocals for Kamelot. It was icing on the cake to see and hear Elize live for the second time in less than two months. Now we can hope that, with Amaranthe's new album due out in 2013, perhaps we can see Elize 3 times in one year. I was also impressed with The Agonist's Alissa White-Gluz's vocal contributions to Kamelot's set and was particularly struck by her stage presence. That makes we very curious to see The Agonist if I get the chance.

Kamelot wrapped up a very tight, and perhaps a little too short, set. Thankfully, after the long wait in line, it didn't take the stage crew too long to transition over and get Nightwish onstage. In truth, Nightwish was the reason we made the trip and I was excited to finally be hearing them live. They immediately launched into "Storytime" one of my family's favorite Nightwish songs, and played "Amaranth", another favorite, third. I immediately found myself thinking about how much I enjoy Anette Olzon's easygoing and friendly stage presence, and her sweet, comforting voice. Yes, many fans were disappointed when Tarja Turunen was asked to leave Nightwish, but I have found that both the albums featuring Anette (Dark Passion Play and Imaginaerum) are in my "favorite albums ever" list. In a way, with Anette and Marco Hietala, the band became more listenable for me. The grandiosity of their symphonic elements is counterbalanced perfectly by the rawness of Marco's voice and the personal familiarity of Anette's.

It was fun seeing Marco, and how essential he's become to Nightwish's stage presence. He would be a natural fit for Kopiklaani, both in looks and personality, adding a raucous humor and forcefulness to Nightwish that I welcome.

My daughter, Kiley, had mentioned to me right after dinner that she wanted Nightwish to play a long set. Well, she got her wish. They were on stage for about 90 minutes, playing heavy hitters like the aformentioned "Storytime" and "Amaranthe", along with "Ghost River" and finishing up with "Last Ride of the Day". In between they treated us to acoustic versions of "Nemo" and two of their more folk-infused pieces ("Finlandia" and "Last of the Wilds").

Since the show started late, Zane was completely wiped out by the end of the set. Kiley gave it her all but was also pretty tired. Still, we were all content as we walked the few blocks back to our car and drove the quick trip back to our motel. Once we get back to the room, I was still pretty energized and not quite ready to fall asleep, so I dug around a bit trying to learn a bit about the show and some of the guest performers.

In the process, I discovered just how lucky we were. Having driven over 7 hours to reach Salt Lake City, and dedicated an entire weekend to attend this show, we hadn't allowed ourselves to worry that the show might not happen. Little did we know how close we came to that outcome. Reading through postings on Nightwish's Facebook page, I learned that Anette had been hospitalized the previous night, unable to perform in Denver. I also learned that the band had scrambled to live up to their commitment to the fans in Denver. Thanks to valiant efforts by Elize and Alissa from Kamelot, Nightwish played the Denver show, despite missing their lead singer.

To me, this is a testament to Nightwish's professionalism and commitment. By my rough count, 90% of fans' responses on the Facebook page were positive, although the other 10% were shockingly unkind and insensitive. Personally, I am in awe of everyone who scrambled to make both the Denver and Salt Lake City shows happen despite the difficult circumstances. As a musician, I have nothing but respect for Elize and Alissa, filling in on incredibly short notice and for the rest of Nightwish for pulling a show together. I realize the fans in Denver didn't exactly see the show they had hoped to see, but in a way, they got to see something extra special. I suspect many will remember the show as a unique experience, one that demonstrates success in the face of defeat and one that they'll remember for the rest of their lives. I also suspect that at least some of them will walk away with a greater interest in Amaranth and The Agonist, having seen what Elize and Alissa were able to do on short notice for Nightwish. Based on some of my own recent experiences with family health and hospitals, I think I can imagine how difficult it was for Anette to get back on stage and give an amazing performance, having spent the previous night in the hospital. I wish nothing but the best to Anette and hope this is just one of those sudden and brief medical challenges, much like I hope for Zane's GI complications.

For those Nightwish and Kamelot fans yet to see them on this tour, you are in for a treat; do not miss the show! For those readers that weren't planning to see them, but still have chance to get tickets to upcoming shows, you really should spend the money and go see this show. If you can't catch one of the remaining shows, but are curious about Nightwish and Kamelot, check out their recent releases (e.g. Imaginaerum and Sacrimony (single)). If you are impressed with Elize's and Alissa's efforts to save the show in Denver, be sure to check out Amaranthe and The Agonist. There's a lot of great music to experience between all of these amazing musicians and I recommend you explore it all thoroughly to find how it overlaps with your tastes.

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