ProgPower Pre-Show: Nightwish and Kamelot's Sold-Out 2nd Show
Band Photo: Nightwish (?)
A kind of metalhead Mecca, the ProgPower USA festival at Center Stage in Atlanta is back in session for its 13th year today and tomorrow. In the kickoff of their US tour, Nightwish and Kamelot tag-teamed for two nights before the official ProgPower festivities got going. To add to the enormity of the occasion, Jon Oliva of the mighty Savatage gave a songwriting workshop before the show in the smaller venue next to Center Stage. For attendees, this was going to be a night to remember, as well as a completely sold-out show.
Backstage before the show, I caught up with Nightwish bassist Marco Hietala for an interview. We ended up rehashing Nightwish's legendary USA debut at ProgPower 4 back in 2003, along with talking about new plans for his other band, Tarot, and the "Imaginaerum" movie. Tonight, Nightwish was going to be doing a special 2nd show with a few songs that were different from the night before. Many fans had come out for both nights, and it was soon clear to them that whatever sound and jet-lag issues were grating on the performance last night were taken care of for this second night.
Fellow correspondent CROMCarl (Carl Frederick) was also in attendance with me at the show. Prior to everything, we had gone down to the bar in the Artmore hotel just up the street from Center Stage, where we engaged in the informal ProgPower pastime of "Spot That Band." The Artmore bar is frequented by the bands, who usually take up lodging for the nights at the hotel. We ended up sighting symphonic metal act Serenity from Austria. The aftershow parties on Saturday at the bar are, as Barney Stinson of How I Met Your Mother would say, "Legen--wait for it--DARY" by now.
Upon walking over to the venue, it was clear that Atlanta would have to make room for black- and green-shirted masses for several days (the official ProgPower shirts are green this year.) Lined up outside of the venue, fans were pouring in as the doors were opened at 7PM. As I mentioned in last year's coverage, many members of the bands set to play the bill also walk around in the crowd and check out their show-mates -- they're fans, too. I spotted the boys from German-based new prog contenders Beyond The Bridge in attendance, as well as several of the guys from Swedish-based Amaranthe, all of whom vouched for the "amazing" nature of the performance tonight.
Back to the start of the show, while waiting in the front of the audience, I encountered Jeremy and Amanda, two of the most important individuals in attendance -- band sponsors. Many of the bands that play ProgPower are making their USA debut, which is not the most affordable thing in the world. Sponsors help provide the backing needed to get these bands to the states to play what might be the show that launches their career in the states.
Within a half hour of standing, the curtain rose and the intro for Kamelot sounded as drummer Casey Grillo came out before the rest of the band took their places. Amaranthe's own Elize Ryd joined as the main background vocalist for the night, perched like a super-foxy ghost in a black dress at the top of the multi-leveled stage. New vocalist Tommy Karevik took the stage and the band rolled into a retrospective set list, moving from "Rule The World" into "Ghost Opera" and covering songs like "Center of The Universe," "Karma," "Forever," "March of Mephisto," and the newer "Sacrimony." During "March of Mephisto," The Agonist vocalist Alissa White-Gluz played the part of Mephisto, tag-teaming with Tommy for the vocals and whipping her blue-and-silver hair around like a demon strolling the stage.
If there were any doubts about new vocalist Tommy Karevik's abilities to fill ex-vocalist Khan's shoes, they were put to rest damn quick with his huge stage presence and dramatic vocals. When singing with Elize Ryd, they even engaged in a bit of a dramatization of the lyrics and drew up near to each other as their vocal lines criss-crossed. With thunderous applause, Kamelot wrapped up the show and gave their bows. Soon, it would be time for the Finnish titans of Nightwish to take the stage.
The night before, Nightwish had played a set list including "Wish I Had An Angel," "Amaranth," "Dead To The World," "Slow, Love, Slow" "I Want My Tears Back," "Planet Hell," "Dark Chest of Wonders," "Over The Hills and Far Away," "Last of the Wilds," "Song of Myself," and "Last Ride of the Day." They had also played a special acoustic set including "The Crow, The Owl, and the Dove," "The Islander," and "Nemo," as well as an electric cover of Gary Moore's "Over The Hills and Far Away." Tonight, they switched out a few songs to include "The Siren," "Higher Than Hope," and "Ghost River." Uilleann pipe and flute player Troy Donockley was part of the action, as well.
Lead singer Annette Olzon was radiant throughout the set, smiling, swaying, and dancing around the stage. Keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen was highly expressive behind his set of three keyboards, going through at least 30 different facial expressions and singing along. Ending around 11:30, the band did not come out for an encore, although this second show in itself could be considered an encore. As the music to "Imaginaerum" echoed through the halls, everyone made their way out and many prepared for the next day of ProgPower, either by drinking themselves silly or sleeping up for the long day ahead -- Day One and Day Two were to come.
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