KO KO’s music venue, is a former Theatre from the turn of the Century, right in the heart of Camden and has a rich history with a list of famous people and events as long as your arm.

The venue has undergone renovations numerous times and although it is equipped with all the mod cons, it still retains its former glory from the Golden Age of Theatre, with deep scarlet reds, ornate gold façades and genuine hand curved ironwork – it was the perfect setting for one of the world’s finest Operatic Sopranos.

Working the Pit is a fantastic experience, but when it’s one of your favourite singers/bands, it becomes an honour and a privilege and you aim to come away with the best shots possible.

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The Pit soon filled up with many of London’s seasoned Pros, along with their very expensive gear and kit bags; one guy proudly showed me his Prince pics and after a brief chat enquiring about my choice of camera settings, the lights went out and the roar of the crowd went up.

As the back line musicians were taking their places, guitarist Alex and bassist Kevin were first out on stage with that choppy 80′s styled guitar riff, complimented with an equally 80′s funk-slap bass, suddenly plunging into the very heavy and full on track, “Demons In Me”, as Tarja – wearing a feather fronted bodice, baggy dress-like pants and heels, very casually strolled out on to the stage and looking every bit like she owned every step of the way, came right to the front – and I mean so close, you could taste the scent of Chanel No. 5 in the air.

Being carried away by the music, that confident stroll of stage ownership soon turned into beaming smiles of twirling and dancing, mixed with constant waves to the audience, interlaced with bouts of headbanging between chorus and verse, and what a great choice of opening track that was.

Changing “Demons In Me”from its second place slot last time I saw Tarja… clearly aimed this time to take no prisoners from the off, as Tarja, smiling that smile which reflected the crowds reaction, said slightly breathless after almost five minutes of high energy excitement, “I’m super happy to see you and I’m so excited to be here tonight… in this beautiful venue of yours”.

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The second track of the night was Tarja’s second single, “500 Letters” from Colours in the Road followed by “No Bitter End”, this was also the opening track from the prequel CD, The Brightest Void, which was not a main single from The Shadow Self CD, but was one of the earliest views into the the new material being recording and which was also to feature on The Shadow Self.

The Muse cover, “Supremacy” and “Undertaker” were the big hitters of the night, songs that for some reason, had been left out of some previous shows and I don’t  know why, because “Undertaker”, although being a mulit layered complex track, was a highly rated song from the new CD, and “Supremacy”, also a great song and also in itself a huge track, was one of the key tracks that shows off Tarja’s high notes extending to her full vocal range.

As wryly as you could possibly say it, and as coyly as I’ve ever seen said – reading between the lines, Tarja said, “I used to be in a band….”

That was all she needed to say, because not only was it the way she said it, it was the look on her face and her body language which was also highly readable too, which was not just saying, “You know who I mean” but also seamed to infer pointedly… “You know what I mean”… and I think every Tarja / Nightwish fan will know exaclty …’what I mean’.

But it was those very slight facial gestures, as she said those words, that personally for me, leaves me in no doubt it was a silent dig, and that for Tarja, there still remains, ‘unfinished business’.

“Lets go back in time….” Tarja announced, and pleasing all the Nightwish fans, the keyboard intro turned into “Ever Dream”;  which became a little Nightwish medley of “Ever Dream” and “Slaying the Dreamer”.

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Gathering all the love, Tarja, with genuine heartfelt thanks, said, “Thank you for those years as well, and thank you for the love and support…”

As the band left their stations, they all gathered around in the centre of the stage for the Acoustic Medley in a slight horse-shoe shape. Cello and keyboards on the left, facing snare / drum box, bass and guitar with Tarja seated at the head of what looked like a invisible dining table.

Taking the hard edge of the show to a much more mellow level, the acoustic medley consisted of, “Until Silence, The Reign, Mystique Voyage, (Paul McCartney’s cover, House of Wax) and Tarja’s first solo single, I Walk Alone”, which comes off the CD, My Winter Storm.

During the show, Alex and Kevin jammed a little instrumental, possibly something from what they are working on from one of the many bands they are in, DER ELEFANT and COSMOSQUAD to name two, this gave Tarja time for a change of clothes, (two changes during the set) or maybe the change of clothes gave Alex and Kevin a little time to shine on their own? But who knows the plans of a lady – when clothes are involved… ;-)

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Through the entire show, the fans were there, ever second of the way, some having travelled a long way, just as my wife and I did, flying to Spain to see Tarja in Barcelona last November, …and singing every word as they screamed between tracks.

With repeated shouts of,  “I love you … I love you … I love you” between the screams (and that was just the girls), with only the occasional male voice adding to the declarations … Tarja, while walking towards the keyboards, suddenly turned her head – smiling with her eyes, glanced over her shoulder and with a look that could cut diamonds, replied, “I love you too…” …and I’m telling you, that completely off the cuff reply, momentarily stunned every soul there, for it was not just the gasps of sheer surprise and delight from the entire crowd, thrilled they got their response – but because it was said in an instant with such honesty and openness, that to all those fans there, it must have felt like the most welcome of arrows, aimed directly at their unguarded hearts.

Wanting everyone joining in, Tarja said…..”For the last time London.”

“Until My Last Breath” was the last track that Tarja closes the show with and one that seems to last the longest, as when it finishes, the crowd just don’t want Tarja to go, and Tarja too, loving the admiration, is seemingly held there by every yell, shout and scream, like invisible strands holding both artist and fans in a mutual web of mutual energy, as she very slowly, almost tentatively, edges her way to exit the stage to her left, while ensuring she takes in as much of the farewells as possible – until she vanishes behind a narrow fold out screen – from where she had first appeared.

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Track list was:

Demons In You

500 Letters

No Bitter End

Lucid Dreamer

Eagle Eye

Calling From The Wild

Supremacy

(Nightwish Medley)

Acoustic Medley

Love To Hate

Victim Of Ritual

Undertaker

Too Many

 

Encores …

Innocence

Die Alive

Until My Last Breath

 

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