A trio of European bands filled the Uptown Theater with bombastic rock on Wednesday.
Almost every melodramatic note and grandiose song was curiously fulfilling.
The histrionic music of Nightwish, Sonata Arctica and Delain is awash in grand flourishes and ostentatious frills. While the ornate tendencies often sound absurd on the groups’ recordings, each band balanced its overblown approach with folksy interactions with members of the audience of about 1,200.
With the venue’s balcony closed, fans squeezed together on the main floor. The close quarters forged a communal spirit that boosted appreciation of each act.
The symphonic style of the Finnish headliners Nightwish make the opulently complex music of its progressive rock precursors like Kansas seem comparatively modest.
Yet the six members of Nightwish aren’t the least bit pretentious.
Floor Jansen, the towering vocalist who recently joined the band and sang on its eighth studio album, possesses the voice of an operatic diva and head-bangs like a reckless reprobate. She punctuated the rock ’n’ roll aria of “Yours Is an Empty Hope” with an anguished scream.
Troy Donockley, the sextet’s Uilleann piper, managed not to sound affected as he invoked poets including Percy Bysshe Shelley in his introduction “My Walden.” Donockley’s presence emphasizes the role of the European folk tradition in Nightwish’s sound, but a couple of the band’s other influences provided thrilling highlights on Wednesday. The creepy “Last Ride of the Day” invoked Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” while the epic sprawl of “Sahara” recalled Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.”
Bolstered by little more than strobe lights and a fan that caused Jansen’s long hair to billow, Nightwish employed fewer special effects than the Dutch band Delain. A theatrical merger of pop and metal, Delain sounded like Ariana Grande fronting Def Leppard. The riveting presence and powerful vocals of Charlotte Wessels made the unlikely musical combination work.
The Finnish band Sonata Arctica added levity to the evening. The absurd banter and slapstick antics of vocalist Tony Kakko accentuated the impression that the blustery quintet was parodying melodic metal bands of the late 1970s.
As with both of their tour mates, Sonata Arctica staged an elaborately choreographed group bow at the end of its set. The hearty applause that greeted each pomp-laden gesture of gratitude was entirely deserved.
Nightwish set list
Shudder Before the Beautiful, Yours Is an Empty Hope, Ever Dream, Storytime, My Walden, While Your Lips Are Still Red, Élan, Weak Fantasy, Wishmaster, I Want My Tears Back, Nemo, Sahara, Stargazers, Ghost Love Score, Last Ride of the Day, The Greatest Show on Earth