Pin-up On the Road: An Unlikely Symphony

Unlikely symphony pic

Well, I finally made it! Vancouver at last! And just this past Saturday, I had the chance to be part of an awesome musical event at one of the city’s historic landmarks; an “unlikely symphony” you might say.

Old Orpheum

Part of the Vancouver Civic Theatres group, the Orpheum is a beautiful gem in the heart of the city’s downtown entertainment district. Built in 1927, it was the largest theatre in Canada at that time with 3,000 seats, and started out as a vaudeville house. Over time, it became known as the Vancouver Theatre, the Lyric, the International Cinema, and then the Lyric again. Also during that time, it fell into the hands of Famous Players, who turned it into a movie theatre after vaudeville had its time in the sun.

In 1973, Famous Players decided to gut the inside of the Orpheum and change it into a multiplex. A “Save the Orpheum” campaign was launched, and even legendary comedian Jack Benny sprang into action to help. Thanks to these efforts, the Orpheum was saved, and the City of Vancouver bought the theatre on March 19, 1974 for $7.1 million. After closing in November 1975, the Orpheum re-opened all renovated and restored on April 2, 1977, and became the permanent home of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Plus, it was even designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1979.

In 2006, the Capitol Residences development was proposed for the old Capitol 6 cinema next to the Orpheum. The City of Vancouver gave the developer permission for extra height and density on their site in return for a major expansion to the Orpheum, which included a long-desired back stage area. This was the largest amenities trade in the history of the city, and I imagine it has helped to bring an extensive number of amazing acts to the theatre, including the likes of Diana Krall and Yo-Yo Ma.

Orpheum 4

And it hasn’t been just musical acts that have rocked this theatre over the decades. In fact, the Orpheum and its neon sign have been used as a key location in several episodes of the television series Battlestar Galactica, Fringe, and Highlander: The Series. But it wasn’t these things that drew me to this beautiful part of Vancouver’s history. To be honest, you might say that I was craving something with a little more “metallic” taste to it. 😉

Birthed in 1996, Nightwish has become one of the most iconic bands in the history of Symphonic Metal. Founded by Tuomas Holopainen, the band has deftly weaved the driving guitars and drum beats most often associated with Metal with the likes of operatic singing, acoustic guitars, flutes, strings, and other orchestral and folk instruments. Though not the creators of this genre, this Finnish band has helped to expand its influence around the world, and has been a starting ground for many classical fans in introducing them to Metal. The following examples of their work help to demonstrate this quite well.

I was first introduced to the band in much the same way: a good friend of mine, knowing I had a classical music background, thought I would appreciate this genre. He was certainly not mistaken. In fact, his suggestions, and the music of Nightwish, helped me to accept my childhood passion for Metal that was not fully recognized—and even supressed—due to the world I lived in. Even their songs, like “Storytime”, have captured in words things I couldn’t have described better myself when it comes to how it feels to be inspired as a writer, and feel like you are merely a pen for someone else writing a story. Therefore, it only seemed natural when I heard that Nightwish would be performing in Vancouver that I made sure I was part of that event.

Nightwish 1

When I first heard that the Orpheum was the venue of choice, I have to admit I found it a little odd of Nightwish to select that location. But then, as I thought about it more, it made perfect sense. It would naturally have the acoustic structure to support the orchestral side of their music, and was located in the heart of the city’s entertainment and alternative scenes. As I waited in line to meet the members of Nightwish, I couldn’t help but be in awe of the sheer beauty around me. The 2006 restoration had certainly paid off, and I gazed in wonder at the crisp, clean architecture of the stairwells and entryways. I could only imagine the countless people who had walked where I was walking, getting ready to see an awesome performance.

Nightwish 3 Nightwish 4

And then it came time to meet Marco, Kai, Emppu, Floor, Troy, and Tuomas. Of course, I came as myself, decked out in my favorite pin-up outfit. Each member of the band was polite and kind, but I wished I had more time to converse with them before the show. However, Troy still made my day as he told me to “boo really loud” because they were filming that night. 😉 Of course I confirmed I would never do that, and treasured being able to have my picture taken with them.

Orpheum 5 orpheum 3 Orpheum 2Orpheum 1

Once I got inside the concert hall, I was amazed at the splendor of it all. Plus, being surrounded by so many Metal fans, it made me feel very much at home. This was my first big-name Metal concert, and it certainly didn’t disappoint me. The warm-up bands, Delain and Sabaton, kicked off the evening in a progressive wave that was just metalicious. And then…. Nightwish. I had already rocked out to the tunes from their new album, Endless Forms Most Beautiful, several times while working and during my road trip. But hearing them live in concert was a special treat, and being able to see who was actually singing at a given moment during the songs brought it all home. I already knew that Floor and Marco had amazing voices, but I was shocked to realize that it was Troy singing at the start of “My Walden”. And seeing the band members express themselves was a fun experience indeed: Floor with her amazing full head spins, Emppu with his incredible playing and joy, Tuomas with his passionate keyboarding and headbanging, Marco with his sheer mastery of bass and Metal awesomeness, Kai with his intense drumming, and Troy with his versatility of instrument and voice. To top it all off, the band pulled out some classic favorites like “Storytime”, “Sleeping Sun”, and “Last Ride of the Day”, making it feel like the concert was put together just for me.

For those who already are fans of Nightwish and have yet to see them perform with Floor, I would like to say that she definitely is a perfect fit for the band. She did take down the song “Sleeping Sun” by an octave, but that was rather irrelevant. What I couldn’t get over was how she “commanded” the stage. She didn’t have to resort to dressing slutty to get noticed, and her facial expressions and presence during songs like “Yours Is an Empty Hope” made her look like an intense Metal goddess you couldn’t look away from. She switched between operatic and Metal tones very well, and I was honoured to have met this Dutch queen of music earlier that day.

All in all, I was proud to have been able to experience this unlikely symphony at the glorious Orpheum, and would recommend anyone catch a show there, or catch one of Nightwish’s performances. For more information about the Orpheum, please visit http://vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/the-orpheum.aspx. For more information about Nightwish and their current tour schedule, please visit http://nightwish.com/en.

orpheum 6

Always with love,

Liz

The Canuck Pin-up

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