Nightwish, Sabaton, Darker Half - Enmore Theatre, Sydney, 11/01/13

Jansen wipes the floor with the opposition as Sydney swelters...


MaF arrives at its favourite Sydney venue just as one of it’s favourite Sydney acts, Darker Half, takes the stage, and having located a reliable source of reasonably-priced Red Wine and a decent place to stand we relax and enjoy proceedings as Vo Simpson and company go about easing us all into the evening. Mixing things up with selections from both their 2009 outing Duality and 2011’s Desensitized, they receive a warm home town welcome and especially impress with a suitably raging run through of Duality’s Helpless.

It’s a good start for sure, but it can’t adequately prepare you for what comes next. Swedes Sabaton treat the house to a full-PA play through of Europe’s The Final Countdown before appearing before us, and for the next three quarters of an hour it’s on for young and old. They get a heroes welcome on appearing, but somehow the roars of approval get louder and louder as crowd favourites such as Got Mitt Uns and Carolus Rex are banged out in quick succession. Frontman Joakim Broden is an affable host, and his genuinely humbled response to the adulation his band receives tonight is as endearing as it is sincere. But he’s here to bang heads, and in between his amusing raps he and his band crash through other faves like Cliffs of Gallipoli (which tonight sounds to these old ears like Manowar covering a Magnum song – surely the greatest possible confluence of influences ever) and Primo Victoria in the sort of  ferociously confident manner normally reserved for bands used to a lifetime of headlining. The band’s contribution to the evening ends with a suitably ludicrous run through their ‘we’re just as big fans of metal as you’ anthem Metal Crue and then they disappear, like, to quote Broden, ‘Village People in Cammo Pants’. Next time Sabaton come to Australia it’ll be as headliners and you need to be there.

Which leads us to headliners Nightwish. Australian favourites for some time, the Finnish fantasists are heading our way in 2013 with another new vocalist in Dutch soprano Floor Jansen following a messy and slightly acrimonious split with former chanteuse Annette Olzon; Jansen, it’s been made clear, is just a stopgap for the band whilst they fulfil their touring commitments in support of 2011’s Imaginaerium opus, after which they’ll take stock before deciding on their next move.

What a stopgap. In simple terms, Nightwish must move heaven and earth to make Jansen their next permanent singer because, on the evidence of tonight’s show there won’t be many who are more suited to this band than her. She handles everything in the band’s set vocally with consummate ease, towering above the rest of the band physically and symbolically as a genuinely commanding presence front and centre – if you didn’t know, you’d have thought she’d been there for years.  The band seems genuinely pleased to have her along too, with guitarist Emppu Vuorinen looking genuinely delighted with the way things are panning out.

Setwise there are no surprises, but plenty of highlights. Opener Storytime gets things off with a bang, whilst Amaranth gets a roof-raising response from the by now delirious Sydney crowd. It’s been a stinking hot day in Sydney and the Enmore now resembles a sauna, but that’s not stopping the assembled throng from enthusiastically going mental.  Olzon’s signature Slow, Love, Slow remains in the set, enabling Jansen to show she’s not just a power metal screamer,  whilst her delicate handling of Nemo shows she’s got the chops to handle the Tarja Turunen material too, but it’s the thrilling crescendo of Ghost Love Score that tops everything, the band locking together underneath Jansen’s ethereal keening in spine tingling fashion.  It’s absolutely thrilling stuff,  and a top way to end an completely top night of heavy metal.