SAARISTO OPEN 2012, 8. -10. June.

Organized for the fourth time, Saaristo Open festival was the festival summer opener for us. The previous three events have always clashed with Sauna Open Air in Tampere, but this year there was no Sauna, so we were able to make it. The Saaristo Open itself was a 2-day festival, but it was followed by Saaristo Junior on Sunday, an event more geared towards children. As RockUnited.Com is hugely popular among the kindergarten-aged readers, you'll get an in-depth review of the Sunday's acts too... what? You don't believe that? Well, okay...


Friday's line-up didn't look particulary interesting, but we gave it a go anyway. The first couple of acts we missed, but got to the site just in time to witness Dr. Alban's set. The Swedish rapper/eurodance artist played a short singback set that included all his biggest 90ies hits. Sure enough, quite a lot of people were happily dancing and seemed to enjoy the likes of "It's My Life", "Sing Hallelujah" and "Hello Africa". Alban had a female singer and a male dancer with him on stage, even though it appeared that just about all of the female vocals came from the CD. The whole thing reeked of a quick money-making scheme for Alban, he didn't seem like he was very much into it and his attempts to sing a word or two were simply hideous. And quite why he managed to fit "It's My Life" TWICE to the 30-minute set list is beyond me... okay, the second version was a different one but still...

Next up was Alexandra Stan, who played an even shorter set, only four songs I believe. Not that I was disappointed, it was another cheap singback/playback performance. We didn't even bother taking photos, as we were enjoying the last few moments of sun further away. She did get a lot of attention in her skintight dress, so in hindsight not taking photos of her was a small mistake... the number of hits to our site would have surely increased if we had managed to snap a couple of nice shots of her. But anyway, if you've heard her hit "Mr. Saxobeat" you've pretty much heard her whole set - monotonous dance pop with some saxophone added to spice it up. Oh yeah, she did cover Haddaway's "What Is Love" and my head almost started to do that thing from "A Night at the Roxbury". Well. not really, but that image will be forever associated with that song. Check YouTube if you don't know what I'm talking about.

And then onto the artist that saved the day... Kaija Koo! She's one of the most successful female artists in Finland, with a career that started in the early eighties, only to blossom into major stardom in 1993, when her triple-platinum second solo album was released. She's been enjoying good sales and radio hits ever since. I haven't really followed her career, but every now and then I've heard her songs on the radio and quite liked some of them.

Kaija Koo gets a major thumbs-up for having a real band with her. Kaija and the band rocked through her biggest hits, including my personal favourites "Operaatio Jalokivimeri" with its' "Livin' On A Prayer"-bassline and the catchy "Tinakenkätyttö". The piano version of her breakthrough hit "Kuka Keksi Rakkauden" was actually much better than the original. I enjoyed her show, she seems like a genuine artist who's in it for the love of music, not fame or fortune.

In the crowd, there was a group of women who did a complete aerobic routine during some of her songs, which was quite a surreal sight. Some drunk guys tried to join in, but their efforts to keep up with the choreography weren't too successful.

After Kaija Koo's set, a lot of people seemed to be heading to the exit gate, even though there was still one artist left. That artist was Samantha Fox, the "page three pinup" from the eighties who enjoyed a string of hits during the late eighties. Since then, her success as a singer has been quite modest, but she's still something of an eighties' icon.

Good things first - at 46, Sam is still attractive and her stage performance was energetic. With her four dancers, there was plenty of eye candy on stage for the guys in the audience. Then the not-so-good things... this was another playback/singback performance, with most of the audio coming from a backing tape (or a CD or whatever format they were using). I was also surprised that she had chosen to include two well-known covers in the setlist, Blondie's "Call Me" and Madonna's "La Isla Bonita", even though it has to be said that they were better than some of the Sam Fox originals. Due to some communication breakdown with the organizers, Samantha wasn't aware of the 01:00 curfew. After her biggest hit "Touch Me" she was forced to cut her set short and apparently there were four songs we didn't get to hear. Quite why the headliner of the day had been allocated only 45 minutes I don't know.


On Saturday, the line-up was much more to our liking, with all the five acts real bands playing rock music. Unfortunately other commitments kept us busy elsewhere until 18:45, when YÖ were about to start. We've covered several of their gigs on this site, and each time we've written positive things about them. This gig was not an exception, they played a solid set with plenty of hits and a few surprise additions, including their cover of The Hooters' "Johnny B.", with Finnish lyrics and a new title of "Angelique". A song from the new album in the works was also played, "Ei Rakkaus Kuole Milloinkaan" sounded like a sure-fire radio hit.

Two foreign acts were the headliners of the day, first of them URIAH HEEP. These veteran rockers started their career way back in the sixties yet they are still going strong. Heep's heyday was in the seventies, and not surprisingly they concentrated on their early material, with a few tracks from last year's "Into The Wild" thrown in. Even though they performed the golden oldies with enthusiasm, I was a little disappointed in the fact that they neglected about 30 years of their career. A couple of their eighties' tracks would've been nice, like the anthemic "Blood Red Roses" for example.

During "Free'n Easy" vocalist Bernie Shaw invited some ladies to the stage. That was rather hard for the security staff to deal with, resulting in a comical moment between them and Shaw. "Let...them...through! That is your job! We have a schedule to keep!"

The band saved their two biggest hits to the end of the set, and indeed both "Lady In Black" and "Easy Livin'" were warmly welcomed. Those songs are such classic rock radio staples that everyone knows them.

Within Temptation were the last band of the day, and just by looking at the stage set being built, I knew we were in for a treat. Both the drums and the keyboards were placed on high platforms, and behind the band there was a big video screen. Yep, this band was going to put on a Show.

The band's gig began with a dramatic intro movie "Mother Maiden" on the screen, followed by the last album's opening track "Shot In The Dark". The first few tracks of the setlist were all from "The Unforgiven" album, with "Faster" being particulary well-recieved. "Ice Queen" along with the encore "Mother Earth" were the only "old" tracks, the rest of the songs were from the three latest albums.

The lovely Sharon den Adel sang really well and seemed to be enjoying herself on stage. The other members of the band did their best not to stay in her shadow, but I guess it's an impossible task, she is such a shining star. That's not to belittle their musical contributions.

I thought the setlist was a bit strangely balanced, with most of the band's biggest hits in the middle of the set. After "Angels" I was puzzled - all the big singles had been played, what next? What's left for encore? Well, apparently the band traditionally closes their set with the first album's "Mother Earth", but still... not that I'm complaining, the setlist contained most of my favourite songs, only in an unexpected order.


- Mother Maiden (Short Movie)
Shot in the Dark
In the Middle of the Night
Fire and Ice
Ice Queen
Our Solemn Hour
- Happy birthday to Mike
Stand My Ground
- Sinéad (Short Movie)
What Have You Done
See Who I Am
Where Is the Edge

Mother Earth



As we approached the festival site on Sunday, we were quite suprised to find that Saaristo Junior had drawn at least twice, possibly three times as much people as the Saturday's big names. Considering that there was another children's rock festival in Turku at the same time, Sunday's attendance can only described as a major success. Unfortunately, the organizers hadn't clearly expected such a massive turn-out, as there were two very long queues at the gate. People seemed quite confused whether they were in the right line as no information was provided, but in the end we all did get in relatively fast, only missing the first song by Hevisaurus.

Our 4-year old daughter Alexa is a major fan of Hevisaurus (and Sauruxet, R.I.P.), so we headed down to the front of the stage. Hevisaurus entertained the young ones and the old ones alike, their "Jurassic Metal" songs sounded good even though the lyrics are more aimed towards the younger listeners. The main Dinosaur Mr. Hevisaurus entertained the kids with his funny little stories, while the rest of the band didn't say too much of anything, except for the drummer KomppiMomppi who had a brief conversation with the Frontosaur?.

The phenomally successful 13-year old Robin has sold 100.000 copies of his first album, which in this day and age is an astonishing number. His record company has found the right way to market him to the pre-teen customers, and now he's a major star. Time will tell whether he'll make a career out of this, but right now it seems there's no stopping him.

Robin also had a band with him, so he gets a higher rating from me than those Friday's playback artists. Obviously some of the music we heard from the P.A. wasn't played live, the band had used pre-recorded keyboards and if I'm not mistaken, some of the guitarsolos were played by someone else than the two guitarists on stage.

Apart from playing tracks from his album, Robin also covered Europe's "The Final Countdown", a song which he has performed in a talent competition to 100 million viewers on Russian TV. The most popular song of the set was unsurprisingly his first hit "Frontside Ollie". Even the moms and the dads seemed to be singing along.

Review: Kimmo Toivonen
Photos: Mira Suutari-Toivonen

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