TARJA at the Manchester Academy 2 – 9 March 2017
Tarja is an unique musician with a sense of mystique all her own. Since departing Nightwish way back in 2006, she has forged on successfully with her own solo career. Her iconic status and extremely busy touring schedule means that when she does play live in the UK her shows sell out instantly and are greatly in demand, as it was when she came to the UK recently to play only two shows in Manchester and London. These were termed “The Shadows Shows,” as she would be playing and featuring material from both her latest album The Shadow Self and its predecessor The Brightest Void.
With the huge demand for both tickets and media places for the two dates, we were very fortunate to be have been accepted with our request. Our photographer also had a relatively easier evening with only two other inhabitants of the hallowed pit area.
Slightly later than expected, Tarja and her band took to the stage after the regular instrumental introduction which seems to be commonplace for this style of neo-classic symphonic rock. It would be a tad one-dimensional to refer to Tarja’s vocal style as powerhouse. Surely that dismisses all the elements of vitality, variation, and versatility which she brings into the course of a live performance. That is exactly what it becomes – so much greater than just a show as an element of theatricality is brought into play where visuals, as well as sounds, are part of the experience. Doro has already attained the Queen of Metal title since the eighties way before Tarja was creating musical beauty. I prefer to view Tarja instead as a Dark Princess weaving her spells and luring in her audience through her vocal majesty and diversity of sonic abilities. The set itself steps into her range of solo releases as she mixes old and new. All songs, however, are equally and rapturously received by an adoring and fanatical audience.
I do, however, feel that the introduction of an acoustic set halfway through the evening did prove to be an error – I feel that it was largely misplaced, as it allowed the electric atmosphere which had prevailed previously to dissipate. Many bands utilise an acoustic mid set breather at gigs these days. However, on this occasion it removed rather than enhanced the overall evening. For the most part, the live versions of Tarja’s back catalogue enhanced their studio recorded contemporaries. It was also nice to see several kids in the audience, sharing the music’s joyous elements with their parents – proving that music can truly cross boundaries and generations. Tarja’s band also proved their collective value as they all were allowed opportunities to highlight their individual abilities during the course of the set’s duration. I feel that Tarja should tour in the UK more often, but on the flip side, the fact that her UK dates remain far between helped to actually heighten the uniqueness of the occasion. It was a pleasure to experience her distinctive talent and haunting beauty at close quarters.