It’s been a pretty amazing year for me, music-wise. I saw Imogen Heap live twice, saw Jane Siberry perform in a normal home living room and got to talk with her for a good bit afterwards, saw Arcade Fire live at Senaatintori… the list goes on. I’m not complaining at all, it’s nice that Helsinki is firmly on the map nowadays for musicians on tour. And now of course both The National and Rush are coming to play gigs in Helsinki in the early spring (yay!).
Still, the “most amazing performance of the year” prize goes (easily) to Joanna Newsom at Kulttuuritalo. I wasn’t sure of what to expect and had never seen her live before. Wow. She’s now pretty close to the top of my “must see this artist live again” list. Very quirky, with a weird voice and a blend of folk, classical and even jazz music, she sounds quite a bit like a young Kate Bush at times but the music is often quite different. Oh, and in this age of compact radio-friendly songs she goes for 7+ minute epics with dense and literate lyrics. Good for her. This is the reason I go see live shows. One show like this makes up for dozens of mediocre ones (not that there were too many of those this year).
I also have to include this even though it’s not from that evening (though it is from the same tour), simply because besides being a great song, “Good Intentions Paving Company” is perhaps the best song title ever.
A symptom of life
In mental and environmental change.
The feverish flux
Of human interface and interchange.
A tired mind become a shape-shifter,
Everybody need a mood lifter,
Everybody need reverse polarity.
Everybody got mixed feelings
About the function and the form.
Everybody got to deviate from the norm.
– Rush, “Vital Signs”
Rush were in Helsinki for the first time ever yesterday, and it was a great concert; I liked it better than the previous (and only other) time I’ve seen them, in Stockholm. The guys played hard and long, clocking at about 3 hours of music with a 20 minute intermission. The setlist was great, with songs taken from albums spanning 1978’s “Hemispheres” to the latest “Snakes and Ladders”. The new songs, played after the intermission, worked the least well, but that’s the way it always is with new material (they weren’t bad by any means, just lacking in comparison to the classic stuff played before and after them). On the other hand, Janka likes their new stuff more than their old, so something for everyone.
The surprise of the evening was “A Passage To Bangkok”, played near the end of the set. Wasn’t expecting to hear that marijuana/hash-drenched song played live. No complaints, it’s a fun piece.
Neil’s drum solo was… most impressive. It’s a new one, from the new album, and… wow. Just wow.
Their newer albums are hit and miss, like most people I like their older material more – or maybe their “mid period material”, to be more exact. “Moving Pictures” is the undisputed classic, of course, and another personal favorite is the dark and apocalyptic “Grace Under Pressure” – an album that I’ve grown to appreciate hugely, despite being lukewarm towards it initially. Of the newer albums, “Counterparts” was pretty good. I’m not too wild about “Snakes and Ladders”, but that may change with more listens. “Armor and Sword”, from that album, is great though.
Tuesday had us at the Nine Inch Nails concert, which I had managed to almost forget about until sometime that same day (somehow I remembered it being the next week). Ooops. I’ve always been some sort of NIN fan, Janka was bravely along as mascot even though she doesn’t much care for their music.
Well, what can I say; it was another excellent concert from them. I find it hard to compare this and Provinssirock, I maybe liked Provinssi even better but that might have been just because there I was among the crowd there instead of seated. NIN does very physical music, you feel a bit like an outsider unless you’re in the action. Very energetic show, with Trent and the guys bouncing around the stage, and the musicianship was again impeccable – very exact, very professional. They delivered their trademark “wall of sound punctuated with brief bursts of silence” sound with style. These guys are very good on stage. Not that they exactly suck on CD, either.
It showed that this was the last concert on their tour. Some goofing around, and all that. It must be quite a project being on one of these big tours, you’re basically on the road for months on end, performing to huge crowds nonstop. I can imagine it’s quite exhausting, mentally and physically.
The warmup band, Ladytron was in the “mostly harmless” category. I’ve seen worse, but have seen lots better. Some of the tracks probably work well as dance tracks (Seventeen, notably), but here not that much. Their lyrics were simplistic and stage presence so-so. Mostly harmless.
Anyway, looks to be a nice upcoming concert summer/fall, notable stuff includes:
- Sunday 27.5: Placebo (managed to get tickets via huuto.net, yay!)
- Friday 15.6 - Sunday 17.6: the Provinssirock festival, with Tori Amos, Patti Smith, etc
- Monday 29.10: Rush (if I manage to get tickets)
Fun but slightly exhausting weekend; spent most of it in Turku at a knife fighting workshop. In a way it was a fun mini-vacation, spending a night at a hotel makes it feel that way even though you’re just away from home a short while. Of course, most of that time was spent at the salle/dojo, not much time for rest&relaxation.
This time around we studied various ways of carrying a knife, and how to draw it quickly into different grips. In the beginning it was pretty straightforward, but got harder (and much sweatier) when we bundled on our outside coats and some gloves, and then did all sorts of “draw knife quickly” exercises lying down, etc. Tricky stuff, it’s pretty easy to get tangled up in bits of clothing for many critical seconds.
The most fun exercise consisted of all but one person standing at one end of the room, and one person at a time walking towards them and doing some off-the-cuff maneuver to draw his/her knife into a ready position without the other people seeing the knife. Very challenging; some people managed to do it pretty smoothly but my “oops, I dropped my keys” routine only half worked, I didn’t manage to totally hide the knife. Instructional exercise, in any case. We also did speed-draw stuff, with a timer.
The rest of the time was spent with the normal pair drills with different types of knife hand / secondary hand timings, and in doing some more slow & careful sparring with sharps. No cuts this time, my packet of band-aids stayed in my bag.
After that was finished I hopped in the car and drove back home, showered, and headed towards town with Janka to see the Rachid Taha concert.
It proved to be an… interesting experience.
At the beginning things went fine. The crowd was a bit static (the theater-like seating makes Savoy a bit sub-optimal for rock concerts), but Rachid and the band got people warmed up and standing by doing a funny “let’s all sleep” routine. The music started swinging and everything seemed fine. I did notice that Rachid himself seemed a bit spaced out and subdued, but I just thought it was his stage persona. He was also having serious technical problems with something, probably an ear mic – there was a lot of scurrying about by roadies.
Unfortunately, about halfway through things started to fall apart and it became painfully clear that Rachid wasn’t subdued as such, he was just totally shit-faced drunk. He started staggering around stage, leaning on things and sitting down, singing only part of the time.. and the end, he could not even stand up and had to be half-carried away from the stage amidst a chorus of “boo!”s. All credit to the band, they played well and did their brave best to salvage an impossible situation, but in the end it just fell apart. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone on stage that drunk since The Jesus and Mary Chain did Provinssirock way back when. Helsingin Sanomat also has some commentary about the whole spectacle.
Pity, since the man does good stuff on CD and I would have liked to hear him in proper shape, not as an (admittedly happily) drunk wreck. Hopefully it was a one-time serious miscalculation on his part, but in any case I can imagine that the hangover from this one won’t be pleasant; I’d think the band will have some… issues to discuss the next day. Most of all I feel sorry for the band, they were good and did what they could in a very pro manner. No complaints there.
Oh well, at least it was interesting, if not in an altogether pleasant way.
As I was writing this, a friend on an IRC channel transmitted the news that Rush is coming to Helsinki for the first time ever this fall. I’ll have to try and get tickets for that when they come on sale (whenever that is, no info yet). Saw them last year in Stockholm, nice gig but maybe a bit too much guitar soloing and (very) old stuff, it would be nice to see them on stage again, if only to compare.
Getting concert tickets and hearing about them is a bit of a pain nowadays. Placebo is coming to Finland in May, and I heard about it two days too late – of course it’s all sold out now. I’ll have to keep my eye out on huuto.net etc, but no guarantees. That’s another band I’d really want to see live.