Anette Olzon: Turn Out the Lights… the Party’s Over
The legendary Monday Night Football color commentator “Dandy” Don Meredith was a wise man in his simple, inimitable manner, and his belting out of a few bars of the Willie Nelson classic during a lopsided game’s garbage time was a welcome light-hearted distraction from a laborious situation that really just needed to end. And while we can’t be spectators into the inner workings and decision making of a band like Nightwish the way we can during a football game, I suspect that the band’s fans who have kept abreast of the recent 72 hours worth of drama unfolding within the ranks of the symphonic metal giants are in need of some stupid, silly levity right now.
Everyone knows the story of Nightwish’s firing of original vocalist Tarja Turunen, and whether one agreed with the decision or not, it was undoubtedly one of the more brutal, ice-cold dismissals of a band member in rock and metal history (for those that forget, she got handed a pink slip type letter mere minutes after finishing a homecoming tour finale in Helsinki — a letter which was pointedly made public online for all to read). Now I felt that the band was justified in their aggressive action towards Turunen, as their reasons were sound and encompassed everything from attempted power grabs, threats of blackmail, interfering business manager/husband, canceling North American tours because the venues were small, and most egregiously, getting the band thrown off a tour with Iron Maiden. I’m thinking that kind of behavior would get you fired from most jobs, or in keeping with the spirit of the NFL football season, you don’t put yourself above or ahead of the team. That’s what Turunen did, and its what newly ex-vocalist Anette Olzon eventually did as well.
There’s a lot of misinformation and ignorant buffonery going on in the comments sections of places like Blabbermouth (surprised?), so here’s a factual breakdown of what happened:
– On September 28th in Denver, Nightwish was due to play at the Ogden Theater with supporting band Kamelot. The night before the show, Olzon became violently ill, and she went to the hospital the following morning. Doctors suspected it was a kidney stone and after five hours released Olzon with painkillers. At 7pm she began vomiting heavily along with a fever, and upon notifying the hospital she was told to go to the ER immediately. She did, and the band was now faced with the unenviable position of having to possibly cancel the show until it was agreed upon that Kamelot’s backing vocalists Alissa White-Gluz and Elize Ryd (of The Agonist and Amaranthe respectively) would attempt to fill in cooperatively, clutching lyric sheets in hand. The band went out on stage and explained the situation to the crowd, and asked the audience if they would be up to seeing this last-minute, unique performance attempted, as well as giving them the option of getting a full refund at the door. The word is that only seven people got a refund and judging from personal testimonies and the fan filmed YouTube videos of the show, a large audience stayed to watch and participate in the show.
– On the night of September 29th, Olzon played what is presumably her last show with the band at The Complex in Salt Lake City. The next day, September 30th, Olzon expressed on her official blog that she was unhappy with the band’s decision to go on with the show and that she was not asked for her opinion on the matter. She continued on to say, “And you know, this is just music. Like life, sometimes we get ill and shows do get cancelled. Rihanna wouldn’t ask Britney Spears to sing for her if she was ill“. This morning on October 1st, Nightwish and Olzon released what appears to be a joint statement explaining the decision to part ways and continue the tour with ex-After Forever vocalist Floor Jansen as their touring fill-in singer, promising that no shows would be cancelled.
Okay, so with the facts laid out, here’s two immediate things to take away from this: One — That getting a European based vocalist such as Floor Jansen to come in to rather suddenly be the Nightwish touring vocalist for the October 1st show in Seattle, WA is no mere twenty-four hour task. This must have been in the works for at the very least many days to possibly weeks now — because think on it, you’re counting on time for work visas, travel arrangements, travel time, and obviously, enough time for Jansen to be familiar with at sixteen to seventeen songs in the setlist. Things like that do not happen overnight. Olzon’s last show was on September 29th — so the fact that they’re apparently going to pull this off is either incredibly impressive or downright miraculous. Two — That after what they’ve been through with Turunen, Nightwish don’t play around — if you’re not a team player, you’re out. And you know what? I completely understand and support their mentality.
I have been, since her induction into the band, a strong Olzon supporter. I think that the pair of albums created with her on board have been the band’s finest, in particular Imaginaerum, and I felt that her lack of an operatic voice such as Turunen’s was what allowed the band to blossom musically and take on an equally prominent role alongside the vocals. The music got better, more interesting, the songwriting more diverse, and Olzon’s pop informed vocal approach was a less overwhelming presence, at least to my ears. That being said, it was easy to see that there were some cracks developing in her relationship with Nightwish. For starters there was her durability on long tours, she was prone to illness, exhaustion, and the band had to deal with the consequences of those things. Then in 2009, she decided upon getting her own manager — an inexplicable move that was widely speculated upon, and one could guess made the rest of the band have a touch of deja vu. The band seemed to soldier on through all these things but lets fast forward to the present day, and the aftermath of Olzon airing dirty laundry on her blog and publicly questioning a decision that was in large part voted upon by fans of the band in attendance that night in Denver. Now Olzon not only comes across as placing herself before the band, but putting herself above the desires of the fans as well.
Nightwish’s parting with Turunen seemed to be a traumatic period for both parties involved, judging from interviews taken around that time, and in particular band leader Tuomas Holopainen took the brunt of abuse from disgruntled fans. The band’s greater success from that point onwards was an admirable triumph, and something not won easily. Its hard to discern how far in advance the decision to part ways with Olzon was made, but clearly her comments were regarded by the band as being out of turn and the final contrary straw to the unity they originally wanted with her. As a fan with a financial interest in their current tour (I’m seeing them live in Austin, Texas on October 10th), I feel solidarity with the fans in Denver who had to make the best of a bad situation, as well as the band who alongside the rather brave efforts of both Kamelot backing vocalists all stepped up and did the best they could for the fans. Olzon’s comparison to Rihanna being replaced by Britney Spears is a pretty huge red flag for, well everyone really — this is a metal show we’re talking about, not a pop concert, and when it comes to live metal shows its all about the fans.
I’m looking forward to seeing the guys live in Austin in nine days and really amped up about the excellent Floor Jansen being on board for the rest of the tour. Here’s hoping they keep her on as the permanent vocalist. And kudos to the band for their commitment to their fans by not canceling a single show in the midst of a tour where they part ways with their singer, its beyond admirable. I know I’m only one guy, but they’ve got my support in full. The party is over for Olzon, perhaps to her quiet relief, but for Nightwish, its game on starting in Seattle — don’t cue Don Meredith yet!