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The band poster for Nightwish’s new “Imaginaerum” album. The operatic metal band, formed in 1997, recently parted ways with its second vocalist, Anette Olzon (above center), who joined the band in 2007

Near the end of a two-hour show last Monday at the Congress Theatre, a breathless Anette Olzon looked out over the crowd, wide-eyed. Scandinavian metal band Nightwish’s front woman had just finished a vocal-chord busting rendition of “Dark Chest of Wonders” and the crowd, an excited throng of black t-shirts, roared with approval.

“Oh my,” she said, almost speaking to herself. “Oh my. Thank you.”

At that moment, it sounded like she was thanking the audience for their appreciation that evening, Nightwish’s only Chicago stop as they tour North America promoting their new album “Imaginaerum”. The audience had much to appreciate: with only a few jarring pace changes and one ill-advised black feathered fedora, the evening was a fulfilling range of intimate acoustic ballads and soaring classical- and folk-influenced metal for which Nightwish is known.

Now, though, it is easy to wonder if she was thanking them for six years of love and support as she prepared to leave Nightwish permanently.

By now, most fans have heard about Olzon’s mid-tour departure–the band’s second split with a vocalist–and are speculating about Nightwish’s future. The press statement  said that keyboardist and founder Tuomas Holopainen, bassist Marco Hietala, drummer Jukka Nevalainen and guitarist Emppu Vuorinen would finish the tour with vocal assistance from Dutch soprano Floor Jansen.

It’s unclear of the split was planned or a sudden one, but sad as the news is, it seems fitting that Nightwish ends their collaboration with Olzon while promoting an album about saying goodbye.

“Imaginaerum” is Nightwish’s most ambitious project yet, a cross-media behemoth about an old man trying to recapture his childhood memories, that includes a full-length movie and score still to be released. Nightwish has always turned toward the fantastical in its albums. “Imaginaerum”, by contrast, was about letting some of that fantasy go.

But there was no indication that change was coming when the band took the stage at the Congress, following a rousing set by fellow touring band Kamelot.

Anette Olzon sings at Congress Theatre 9-24-2012

Anette Olzon sings at the Congress Theatre in Chicago, Sept. 24, 2012. Photo by Katherine Hall

Olzon bounded around the stage, a blond Gothic Lolita in a ruffled black dress and studded leather gloves that winked in the flashing lights. She looked doll-like, and her enthusiastic interaction with both the rest of the band and the crowd gave the feeling that Nightwish, and everyone who had come to that concert, was the child in “Imaginaerum” with that wild imagination.

Theater is often just as important as the music in a metal performance and even without the usual stage decorations that define a Nightwish show, the atmosphere of the concert was tangible. The lighting itself told a story: simmering red and yellow pulsated across the stage for the snarling, foot-stomping “Planet Hell” and “I Want My Tears Back” while a soothing, sad blue gently swept over the audience during an acoustic rendering of “Nemo”.  Olzon did not change costumes, though she did don the aforementioned fedora for the smoky, jazz-influenced “Slow Love Slow”. The touch was nice, but the hat looked too big and covered her eyes almost completely.

As they closed with the aptly named “Last Ride of the Day” the band looked, and sounded, tired but happy. They hugged, smiled, and bowed to the crowd amid chants of “One more song!” They finished on a strong note.

Just like that, unbeknownst to fans then, Olzon finished her last Chicago concert with Nightwish. And like”Imaginaerum’s” old man bidding farewell to childhood, Nightwish fans will have to say goodbye to another chapter in the band’s history.

Set List:


“Wish I Had an Angel”


“7 Days to the Wolves”

“Dead to the World”

“Slow Love Slow”

“I Want My Tears Back”

“The Islander”

“Nemo” (Acoustic)

“Last of the Wilds”

“Planet Hell”

“Ghost River”

“Dark Chest of Wonders”

“Over the Hills and Far Away”

“Song of Myself” (two movements)

“Last Ride of the Day”