GONG, Turku 14 April 2018
Sure, we were "off-duty" but the rock'n roll preacher in me wants to preach! I don't care if you're already converted, I'm going to repeat what I've said a few times before: H.E.A.T. are an unbeatable live band. The gig at Gong in Turku was the sixth one of theirs we've seen, and it ranks among the best ones. Not only among the best H.E.A.T. gigs, but gigs in general.
We found our way to Gong a few minutes before the support band BLOCKBUSTER were scheduled to start, and were a bit shocked to find the venue almost empty. When Blockbuster started, a couple of dozen more people came to check the set, and more kept arriving as the headliner's time slot got closer.
RockUnited.Com has a rather unfortunate history with Blockbuster. In 2011 when the band won a competition to support Bon Jovi on their stadium gig in Helsinki, and we covered that concert, but arrived to the stadium too late to see them. Then fast forward to April 2017 when they were the opening act for One Desire and Brother Firetribe - our schedule was difficult again, and we saw two songs. A while later they were supposed to support Tribe in Turku, but their van broke down or something, and they couldn't make it! But fourth time lucky...
Blockbuster played a solid set of no-frills hard rock. They weren't bothered that the venue was less than full and clearly had the intention of winning us over. Indeed they somewhat did. I thought their performance was ok, as were their songs, even though I can't remember any of them by name right now... I remember that the first couple of songs were the best. What they still need are a few songs with killer hooks, the kind of hooks that just won't go away.
The band had plenty of vocal power, as vocalist/guitarist Aarni Metsäpelto was backed by all three other members. They had the basics of rock showmanship studied and the numerous gigs they had played had turned them into a tight unit. Not half bad!
At 22:00 the venue was pleasantly full. Not completely packed but full enough that there was a nice athmosphere. It was relatively easy to get to the frontrow if one wanted to do so. Our photographer Mira was also off-duty, but taking photos is her second nature, so she positioned herself to the frontrow and shot these pics with our phones.
Right on schedule, the houselights went down and "The Heat Is On" started the party. The band opened with the energetic "Bastard Of Society", the opening track of their latest album, and for the next hour and a half we barely had time to breathe. Even though there were ballads, drumsolos and guitarsolos, the intensity never really dropped too much.
More than half of the new album "Into The Great Unknown" had made it to the setlist. The songs worked great live, especially the piano/vocal performance of "We Rule" was fantastic, and "Best Of The Broken" was better than on the album. Before the tour the band asked their fans what songs they wanted to hear from the early albums, but only three old songs (before Erik Grönwall's arrival) were played, including "Late Night Lady" and "Beg Beg Beg" which both have been in the band's setlist forever. I wouldn't mind hearing some other gems from the first albums every now and then. I was happy to hear "1000 Miles" again though, a killer song that definitely deserves its' place in the set. Other highlights for me included "Living On The Run", one of the best songs released during the last 10 years, "Breaking the Silence", "Mannequin Show"... well, I liked them all really.
One thing that separates H.E.A.T. from other bands is their frontman Erik Grönwall. He is simply on the greatest showmen I've ever seen. He has a magnetic presence and a superb voice, yet he doesn't take himself too seriously. Although I'm sure that some of his stage antics have been planned beforehand, he makes it all seem very spontaneous and one can't help but wait for what happens next. The Grönwall Specials at Gong included crowd-surfing, pole-climbing, singing among the crowd, a lot of shadowboxing and gymnastics... not to mention using my phone to film some video from the stage! You can see the results on our Youtube channel and Instagram.
Although a bonafide star and an energizer bunny on stage, offstage Erik is very down-to-earth and humble guy, always appreciative of the fans' support. The same goes for the rest of the band, nice guys each one of them.
Review by Kimmo Toivonen
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