Made In Hong Kong, a phrase well known from manufactured products, and quality is perhaps not what you first associate with it. Nevertheless, the first live recording from Nightwish with Anette Olzon does not feel as any mass-produced low price gadget, although the album appears to be a product from their record label and according to an interview with main-man Tuomas Holopainen, he has nothing to do with the album and would have preferred it not to have been released. The album is released in a DVD-version as well, with a documentary and video-clips to go along with the audio.
The album serves its purpose to demonstrate how much of a capable vocalist Anette is live (we already know that the band is astonishing since earlier live recordings), just as she has proved to be on the Dark Passion Play album. I just love the sound of her voice when she really sings out with full lungs, she truly has a lot of the nice little thing called "it", and further that she sings just so damn well live and that her entrance feels so natural in Nightwish. I also like a lot that her vocals come out rougher and not as polished as on album. I have seen Nightwish several times with Tarja as well as with Anette and the new found power and magic the band has gained since the change is successfully captured here on Made In Hong Kong.
The dynamic between the vocals by Marco and Anette comes out well in Bye Bye Beautiful, and perhaps it is even better displayed in Sahara although his voice is not at its absolute best. They are two strong songs that come out good with a good live ambience to them. Regarding Marco, his best vocal efforts are found in the great Celtic-sounding, calm and melodic The Islander, and that is most likely the best Nightwish song in my opinion where he has the lead vocals. Anette then; very inspiring vocals from her, not least in Amaranth as well as in The Poet And The Pendulum, but in the latter, although it is very uplifting, you sometimes forget that it is live when Nightwish use as much pre-recorded material as they do.
The instrumental Last Of The Wilds really gives you a taste of a damn tight band. It is as they have tampered with the song afterwards since it sounds so close to perfection, but nevertheless the professionalism they show on stage shines through in these recordings. A song like 7 Days To The Wolves is powerful as well as beautiful for sure, but I don't really see that it is should have its place in the live setlist, and especially not on this album.
I would have liked to see that at least a couple of old songs was included as well, since the new vocal approach makes the songs sound different but still just as good, and in order to make a decent live album something more than the latest release ought to be represented. Another thing that bothers me is that the pauses between the songs are too long, containing crowd noise. That is relatively ok considering that it is a live recording, but the wait does not feel as long when you actually see what is going on at the stage.
Apart from the live recordings there are three other tracks as well, and just some quick notes about them. First is the up-tempo track Escapist that was released as a B-side to the Bye Bye Beautiful single. It is reminiscent of the "old" sound of Nightwish and the guitars are very much reminding me of an older track that I can't figure out the name of. It feels to me to be a re-worked idea, but it is catchy nonetheless and could have more or less been placed on any album deserving its place.
While Your Lips Are Still Red, which was released as a B-side to the Amaranth single, is a soggy ballad sung by Marco with intelligent melodies as always from Nightwish, but personally I would have been much happier without it. Finally, the demo recording of Cadence Of Her Last Breath is for the die-hard Nightwish collectors only, since it is solely Marco on vocals and the rest of the music appears to be done synthetically.
Made In Hong Kong is a good taster of what Nightwish represents live, but what I would have preferred is a proper release with a complete concert that would have covered a broader spectrum of their discography. Moreover, I would have liked to see it released as CD as well as DVD, and why not throw in the documentary there as well.