Mariko, Von Hertzen Brothers and The Rasmus have travelled across Finland for a couple of weeks under the name of "Dynasty Tour". The name originates from a "brotherhood of bands" called Dynasty, which has evolved into Dynasty Recordings, a label co-owned by Lauri and Pauli of The Rasmus. Both Mariko and VHB are the label's artists. Musically all three represent somewhat different genres, Mariko's style being dance-pop, VHB play progressive rock and The Rasmus have found great success with their dark pop-rock sound.
In Turku, the show took place in the Spa Hotel Caribia. The 994-hall is big enough for over 1000 people, but I very much doubt that the gig was even close to being sold out. I would estimate that there were less than five hundred people in the audience. Considering the fact that The Rasmus went straight to number one on the Finnish charts a week ago, the turnout was a bit disappointing. The local advertising was quite scarce though - I recall seeing merely one ad in the local newspapers for this gig.
The concert was clearly an "all-ages" event, with the youngest people being around 7 years of age I guess. The younger people had even their own "bar" which served water and soft drinks, not a bad idea actually. As for the other end of the age spectrum, we weren't event close to being the oldest ones.
When MARIKO started her set, there were maybe a few dozen fans in the frontrows and another dozen or so scattered around the room. The bar area didn't look too crowded either. Formely known as a tomboyish rapper/singer in the band Kwan, Mariko has gone through a dramatic transformation into a full-blown pop diva. Her participation and subsequent victory in the popular TV show "Dancing With The Stars" apparently helped her to "embrace her feminine side". Indeed, she took the stage in high heels and an extremely short dress, looking like a graduate from Mariah Carey's School Of Style.
My knowledge of Mariko's solo material was limited to "Unstoppable", the first single off her first solo album "Fabulous Tonight". It's not the kind of music that really appeals to me, so I wasn't expecting much. To my surprise, the first song of the set kicked off with a cool, simple guitar riff and a straight-forward beat. Even the chorus was good - "Cool Dance Rock" was what I wrote to my notebook. Unfortunately it was followed by a song that reminded me of the utterly horrible "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" by Wham! and afew others that didn't do anything for me. The last song "Time Has Come" was pretty good though, and to give credit where credit's due, Mariko's shot at latin pop ("Papasito") was way more believeble than probably any other Finnish artist who has ever attempted to do the "tico-tico" thing.
I quite liked VON HERTZEN BROTHERS when I saw them in Ruisrock last summer, but somehow they didn't have the same effect on me this time. Sure, they are great musicians, but I found some of their songs a bit too progressive, with lengthy solos and instrumental passages. The crowd was more into them though, and obviously a good number of the people in the venue were there to see them especially. It's not suprising that they've managed to attract a hardcore following - they certainly worked hard last summer, playing just about every bigger festival that was staged in Finland.
The band's set had a bit slow start for me, but things improved as the show progressed. The "easier" songs like "Experience" and "Let Thy Will Be Done" weren't too bad at all. I was hoping for "The River", which I recalled being the highlight of the Ruisrock set, but that wasn't in the cards this time. Oh well.
As the showtime of THE RASMUS got closer, the venue started to fill up quite nicely, and the young girls took over the first few rows. A few young ladies were enjoying the gig nearby, and I couldn't help overhearing their "mild" reactions - "Ohmygod if they play "Liquid" I caaaan't take it!"...well they did and the girl who said that didn't pass out, I think. She did have a few other "close calls" though, as did her friends.
"Livin' In A World Without You", The first single of the new album "Black Roses" was the opening number. It worked really well, and Lauri the diminutive frontman had the crowd eating out of his hand right away. The band didn't mess around much as they went straight into "F-F-F-Falling", the song that marked the beginning of the new era for the band back in 2001. The moody "Ghost Of Love" from "Black Roses" followed, with a little help from the 5th player in the band - the backing tape. While it was obvious that backing tapes were used throughout the gig, the band's energy and drive made them seem almost unnoticeable.
The songs from the new album were wisely placed early in the setlist, in between more familiar hits from the previous three albums. I might be wrong, but I think that "Ten Black Roses" got the best reception, the single notwithstanding. During the song, the obligatory black roses were handed to Lauri from the crowd. Apparently the band's fans have created a kind of a tradition to bring black roses to the gigs - hence the name of the new album.
Backing tapes or not, there is still room for spontaneity in the set. Just like on probably every gig in Finland, someone asked the band to play "Paranoid", and indeed they did, or at least one verse of it. "We do know these songs...", quipped bass player Eero. He seemed to be in a chatty mode throughout the gig, taking care of most of the talking between the songs. Guitarist Pauli stayed on his side of the stage, seemingly content on playing his parts and looking like a happy sheepdog :). Lauri was bouncing all over the stage, while drummer Aki did what drummers do - provided the backbone of the band and kept the show flowing.
"Something exciting is gonna happen", said Eero, when Lauri went offstage to get his acoustic guitar. That's not very exciting at all, so I thought that maybe a guest appearance or something might take place. Given the "brotherhood"-thing of Dynasty, I was half-expecting the members of the two other bands to storm the stage. Close, but not correct - only Mikko Von Hertzen jumped to the stage and sang "Sail Away" as a duet with Lauri. The set ended with a nod to the long-time fans of the band. Three songs from the era before the "The" were put together to a medley. The first encore was a weird song with Finnish lyrics, an odd little tune about UFOs. The whole shebang was ended with the band's biggest hit "In The Shadows".
While I could've listened to a few more songs, I can hardly complain about the set. It was very well put together, highly professional but spiced up with some humourous elements. Yep, very entertaining.
Review by Kimmo Toivonen