The career of this highly talented singer has been something of a rollercoaster. As the focal point of Finnish metallers Nightwish, Tarja Turunen became known and loved the world over. Her operatic style blended beautifully with the grandiose and pompous symphonic metal performed around her by Tuomas Holopainen and Co. The split with Nightwish that followed the release of their greatest album, ‘Once’ has been well documented and it left Tarja with no other option but to go solo.
Tarja’s debut album (if we ignore her 2006 Christmas covers album “Henkäys Ikuisuudesta”) “My Winter Storm” was, at best, a very hit and miss affair. There were some gems but also too much in the way of filler as she seemed nervous and struggled to find her own direction and focus. However, 2010’s follow-up, “What Lies Beneath”, was infinitely better, both compositionally and vocally. More risks were taken, more variety was injected into her performance and, crucially, it felt like some of the confidence and mojo had returned.
And now we have “Act 1”, a live offering that has been recorded in both double DVD and double audio disc formats from a show in March 2012 at the El Circulo Theatre in Rosario, Argentina. For the purposes of this review, I am only referring to the audio version.
Naturally, the bulk of the material within the 24-song set-list is culled from Tarja’s main two solo albums, with seven or so tracks taken from each. In the main, the choice of songs is relatively unsurprising, although I was very disappointed with the omission of ‘I Feel Immortal’ which is a personal favourite of mine. Nevertheless, you do get the likes of ‘I Walk Alone’, ‘Little Lies’ and ‘Until My Last Breath’, none of which are to be sniffed at. In addition, you also get the odd ubiquitous crowd-pleasing Nightwish cover in the form of ‘Nemo’ for example, as well as a number of other covers. Bon Jovi and Belinda Carlisle are joined by Swedish singer Ankie Bagger is a fun medley whilst Whitesnake (‘Still Of The Night’) and Gary Moore (‘Over The Hills And Far Away’) are also given a working over.
Setlist aside though, it is obviously the performance itself which is most important. On that score, you’ll get no complaints from me because, say what you like about Tarja, she’s a consummate professional. As a result, everything is, as everyone seems to say these days, ‘on point’. Her voice is in fine form, oozing confidence and finesse, whilst the backing band comprised of the “What Lies Beneath” crew including drummer Mike Terrana, guitarist Alex Scholpp and keyboardist Christian Kretschmar provides the powerful and tight accompaniment. I’m not sure how much studio tinkering has taken place but this is a crystal-clear recording and sounds great on my stereo, as if I was in the crowd. Well, nearly. Ultimately for all that, I don’t think that this disc will do little to sway the sceptics or fence-sitters and will probably only find wide appeal with existing fans.