RAUMA, Raumanlinna, May 20, 2004 - by Kimmo Toivonen
Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to see WASP live in Rauma, a rather small town on the west coast of Finland. It's not exactly known as one of the rock centrums of Finland, and to my knowledge the only international act that has previously played there is Uriah Heep a few years ago. Somehow the organizers had pulled this off, and Blackie brought his troops to the Domino nightclub of Raumanlinna Hotel.
A few hours before the gig I heard that the supports act Dragonforce was stuck in Sweden due to some ferry ticket problems, and that pissed me off a bit, because I was really looking forward to seeing the super-fast metalheads. The other support band Dyecrest didn't play either. We arrived to the venue well in advance of the announced showtime, and indeed it appeared later that we were very well in advance, as WASP only started to play at midnight. By that time the club was totally packed, so packed in fact that it wasn't too enjoyable. What made the experience even more unpleasant were the drunken idiots who were bumping into other people and stagediving. Maybe it's someone's idea of fun, but I'd rather watch the band than someone's foot on my face. Get excited, sing along, raise your fist and yell, but watch out for other people!
As for the main attraction, the band was in decent shape, and the set was quite good. WASP played most of their hits, and the audience got what they wanted. The less-familiar new songs were spiced up with some theatrics, Blackie swinging on his motorcycle-handlebar-skull mikestand, and making himself the "neon god" with some sort of a reflective neon skin paint. Still, the biggest cheers and singalongs were reserved for the classics from the first two albums: "I Wanna Be Somebody", "L.O.V.E. Machine", "Wild Child" and "Blind In Texas".
The sound of the show suffered from serious technical problems: the PA seemed to die several times during the gig, and sound was at time horribly distorted. The guitar sound during Blackie's acoustic set wasn't too pleasing to the ears. That and the aforementioned idiots aside, the gig was a special experience.
Turku, Caribia, May 21, 2004 - by Kimmo Toivonen
Thanks to Dragonforce's Herman, we got our names to the guest list and were able to check out the full tour ensamble in Turku...or that's what I thought. Prior to the event I didn't find any info on when the bands were going to play, only that the doors would open at eight. Taking note of the fact that WASP started at midnight in Rauma, I thought that by showing up at ten, we'd surely wouldn't miss Dragonforce...and indeed we arrived to the venue quarter past ten, only to find out that the two support acts had played their sets already. I was seriously bummed, especially as we were there as guests of Dragonforce...would have been nice to see their show. I talked to a few other people and they had missed the band as well, thanks to this weird schedule, which was only to be found at the door of the venue. I guess the fact that Caribia is a Spa and a hotel had something to do with the schedule - perhaps they didn't allow the concert to last till too late.
The WASP set was exactly the same as the previous night (except for "Forever Free" which wasn't in the set here), even Blackie's song introductions were the same, but what a difference did the venue make! The stage was much bigger so the band had much more room to romp around, and they did that with passion, especially bassist Mike Duda was all over the place. The sound was better too, and even though the concert was sold-out I think, there was a lot more room for everyone. Of course the frontrows were crowded, but you could easily walk very close to the stage and see the band very well, without having to revert to furious elbowing tactics.
Helsinki, Tavastia, May 22, 2004 - by Vesa Nuorala
This show was something that I really hoped to see and got really lucky because one of my customers wanted to go, so... Company credit card was very well used. We got there during DragonForce and they played fast and had a lot of hair but decided to move to bar and watch the show from the screens. Not my cup of tea.
Finally WASP - well at least Blackie - was there. I really would have loved to see Chris Holmes playing the guitar but he is busy with Animal so not much you really can do about it. I never had the opportunity to see them but at the age of 35 it was finally my turn.
The crowd (sold out) was very into the set right from the start and it was just like being 20 at the front row for me again but then it got so tight that we decided to move more to the back - here it is when you notice that you're not that young anymore.
WASP played all you wanted to hear (Well I would have liked to hear "Dirty Balls") and it was a trip through a memory lane. I think "Wild Child" got the best reaction from the crowd at least when it comes to sing alongs. The new songs sounded great and I have to get the new CD. The set list was I guess the same in every show so no suprises there. The old songs are truly classics but the speaks in the middle are the same as they we're recorded on the double live (Assasins). Well at least I got to hear the words "If you fuck like a beast then you must be an animal!" live. Great set and Blackie sitting on his mic stand was incredible to watch and they sure didn't disappoint me and my ears where ringing for 3 days after the show. That is always a sign that I have enjoyed the show. Thanks for WASP for coming to Helsinki and next for me in Tavastia is Brides Of Destruction. Finally going to see Nikki Sixx.
Helsinki, DRAGONFORCE'S BLACK SUNDAY, May 23, 2004 - by Satu Reunanen
The finnish part of the tour didn't seem to go all too well with UK's Dragonforce, first they had to deal with the ferry ticket problems and they missed out from their first show in Rauma. But the next days gave them some hope and they managed to play in Turku and the first show in Helsinki. As Sunday went along, the sad news travelled to the fans, they wouldn't be seeing the bands tonight due to the main band Wasp's Blackie Lawless' illness. I made a phonecall to Herman Li, the guitarist in Dragonforce, and checked out what were the plans for the free evening for the band, probably some drinking and an interview we had discussed earlier. As I hung up the phone we immediately left to Helsinki to do some work and meet some friends we hadn't met in a year.
As we got closer to Tavastia Club, the band's red tourbus gave the first hint that something was still happening at the crime scene. And then Herman appeared, looking a bit tired and showing us his disappointment. Dragonforce would've still wanted to play, after all this would've been the night most of their finnish friends would've come to see them. But it wasn't their decision. We then headed inside the tourbus to do the interview and hardly could fit in, the place was so packed and the seats were terribly small. Imagine the terror of having a numb butt for weeks, sitting among beer cans and liquor bottles and your sweaty friends giving you no peace at all...this definately ain't the best part of being a musician, but hey, every job sucks sometimes. The guys inside the bus, Dyecrest members included, were still quite cheerful though, drinks were already flowing from table to another. The interview went into quite lengths and as we were almost finished with it, ZP, vocalist of Dragonforce, entered the bus shouting "who the fuck are you" right into my ear, but not in an angry way. Well, I can't blame him if he didn't remember me from Sweden Rock last year, the guys were probably bloody drunk every time we saw them. He had a hilarious laugh after Herman's explanation of my report from the festival last year, go and read that from the festival section and you'll know what the joke was.
After the interview was done the band wanted to go somewhere to party and some of the guys hit on some metal chicks. They visited the Corner Bar the night before and would've wanted to go there again, but as Finland is really boring with metal bars on Sundays especially, Corner Bar was closed so we had to think of something else. while the band was getting some more liquid down their throats, we went to Ilves Bar right next to Tavastia Club to ponder on the situation and wait for the guys. Kaasu from HIM and Niclas from Amorphis were sitting at the bar too, along with people who came to see the show. After some phonecalls and all of our friends packed together and the police driving us away from the road that we had blocked quite well, "Black Sunday" seemed to reflect best how we felt right now, so we headed to London Pub. Sam Totman, the second guitarist, had brought a video camera with him and he felt a terrible urge to record some stuff on his tape, especially the huge group we had, getting some evidence on tape that he's got this many friends at least somewhere, but not at home...London Pub was totally dead and the music which was still metal, didn't give any vibes to anyone, it was so freaking low you had to guess real hard to know what band was on. Dragonforce was definately disappointed there wasn't more action going on, but we still decided to stay for at least one drink. Vadim Pruzhanov, their keysman, decided not to join us for the club tour.
The band posed for some pictures on the coutch and as the fuss had settled down a bit, more than one drinks kept the group at London Pub. A great idea of an acoustic gig was thrown to the guys, as a piano was lying in the corner. The guys didn't seem to be too thrilled about it, though ZP gave us a little sample of his voice, singing John Lennon's "Imagine". The piano was meant for deaf people though, who enjoy a really hollow sound...meaning all the keys were missing...some more humour was found from the lavatory doors that were decorated with Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles. This probably wouldn't be at all acceptable in the UK. Sam made some more memorabilia to his video, filming some more jokes on it, though he didn't get any woman to show her behind on it, while Dave had to show his mobile to the crazy technology loving finns and ZP kept spreading his legs on the coutch and making lesbian etc jokes. But eventhough the guys are quite the jokers, they have their serious side too. The rest of the bunch sat in the table next to us and had their own fun over there. Herman cursed in finnish and made a joke about it, while the other guys managed to pronounce our language a bit better. ZP learned a russian sentence, which works for the ladies...While at the London Pub, we didn't get the band to perform at all, but enjoyed some fun company. The band and some of our friends left to On The Rocks-club from there and stayed up quite long, those lucky bastards. The rest, well, we had an early morning wake.
Tampere, Pakkahuone, May 23, 2004 - by Satu Reunanen
After a torturing Monday afternoon, waiting for the gig to be confirmed, our car finally headed to Tampere to witness the furious Dragonforce on stage and the legendary WASP. Immediately after stepping on Pakkahuone ground we noticed Herman near the tour bus and the rest of the band. The guys seemed to be in pretty good shape concidering they went to sleep in the morning after who knows how many drinks. On The Rocks-club in Helsinki seemed to offer the guys much more fun than London Pub, at least what we heard from them. Before we could get in the club We still had to wait for the guestlist to appear to the door and while waiting Dyecrest begun their set, Pakkahuone windows resonating to the noise. After getting in and talking a photopass for us in the last minute, Herman checked out we were fine and started getting ready for their set. The place wasn't even half full yet when Dyecrest started playing at about 8.30 p.m, so they were having a hard time to get the crowd going, it was Monday after all. Their set was powerful enough and the songs were catchy, but only a few people got into it. The guys even had the right attitude, so you can't blame them for not trying. The crowd cheered at them some though, so they didn't have to leave empty handed. The WASP back drop was already gracing the stage with its evil colours and the support bands had the same space on stage as WASP, the only exception being WASP's drums were set higher from the rest of the guys and the support bands drums were on the same level as anything else.
I kept my place in the front row the whole evening, this time the reason for such a stupid place being a) never seen Dragonforce this close b) never seen WASP live and I wanted to see Blackie right in front of me, not some hazy devil from 100 meters away from me. When it was time for Dragonforce's power metal, the band was announced on stage by a funny intro tape, not forgetting to mention what this band was about, speed. Right after the intro the guys ran on stage and the next 40 minutes were full of action. Herman and Sam had their battle of the axes, jumping around, Herman swaying his guitar in the air and wiping it to ZP's butt, those crazy solos losing nothing live to the ones heard on the albums. The mixing wasn't all that good though, ZP's voice suffered from it and so did the guitars. There were only a few of their own fans present, so the reception wasn't the greatest, but I'm sure my energy filled some of that gap. Vadim was going crazy behind his keys too, this time he didn't manage to knock them down though, and Dave was as energetic behind his electric drums, which Dyecrest also used. Some of the crowd wondered who the hell is this band playing like a maniac, and while guitar solos were flowing, some couldn't get their eyes off from them, and some people really started getting into their music. ZP was also doing amazing job with his vocals, sounding exactly like on the album and Adrian was on a good mood too, and there was something classical Iron Maidenish in him I just couldn't figure out. The set seemed like it ended when it had just begun, the band was truely a sight for sore eyes, there wasn't a boring moment in their show. The best part was the end of the show, as "Valley Of The Damned" got the best response. This still seems to keep the number one spot in their songlist.
The crowd had grown bigger while the break and the tension was enormous when people started packing to the front, it was even scary. Some of the fans seemed to be so possessed by WASP that this night was definately not going down clean. I had my doubts if I was going to be able to keep my spot in the first row. As the intro started playing people started shouting the band and the anxiety started growing. The intro which didn't seem to have an end made it grew to such lengths, that when the band hit the stage a woman next to me wished me a good gig, fearing this might be a real torture. And from that point on the crowd moved like the water escaping from the water plant, with intensive mass flowing from side to another, making great noise along the way. I kept my place althrough the show, being prepared for the worse the whole time. Once I had the space for applause, but it was a quick one. The expression on my face wasn't the nicest and when Blackie visited in front of me many times, he seemed to ponder if I was a real fan or what. I felt like being hypnotized to my spot, staring the band like a nutcase and keeping myself alert to the guys fighting behind me and the other guys and a girl fighting next to me. My fingers and my other leg were locked to the barricade in front of me, aching from the mass that was pushing me for almost two hours. But I was headstrong, these guys were in for a helluva fight if they pissed me off. The woman next to me got fed up with the guys and offered them the spot next to me, but as she told me: "they're afraid to come here", I must wonder if it was my attitude or the expression on my face that kept me safe that evening. Whatever, but the rest of the show went in calmer manner. The band moved a lot on stage, Blackie kicking with his tassel-covered feet like we've all witnessed him doing in so many videos and their guitarist getting some good excercise too, so they didn't lose much to Dragonforce from that part. Blackie had gained a little weight, but only to his stomach that was bulging out from his t-shirt a little, but otherwise he looked much younger than many people at his age. The sounds weren't as good as Dragonforce had, they were missing some bass and as Blackie was saving his voice, their set didn't seem to hit the right spot in me. Normally songs such as "Wild Child", "I Wanna Be Somebody", "Chainsaw Charlie" and "L.O.V.E. Machine" would do the trick for me, but the passion was lacking that night. Of course "I Wanna Be Somebody" did the trick for the rest of the bunch, but as it seemed at that point, people had had their drinks by then and it was the booze talking. During the newer songs Blackie smeared himself with some neon colours that were showing in the darkness. He climbed to his beautiful skeleton mike stand, swaying from side to another in it and started making ugly faces, like a devil trying to hypnotize his masses. He crawled on the floor and made you wonder if you actually were inside of a mental institude instead of a show. But as Blackie spoke to the crowd, which wasn't that much, he wasn't insane at all, just pleased of the way he was treated during his time in Finland and wanted to thank everyone. Tampere was keeping a tight schedule, as WASP finished at 11.30 p.m. already and so many hits weren't played that night eventhough their set wasn't the shortest. Only Helsinki got the best on this tour, and probably also Turku, when Blackie's voice was still working.
Thanks go out to Herman Li for all the help and Dragonforce for nice company, the nice staff in Pakkahuone and Jari Yläoutinen, Edel Records.
Main pix by Kari Helenius, all taken from the Tampere gig.
TURKU & HELSINKI
Neon God Overture (tape)
9. Blind In Texas
(Pix in this column by Tommi Ääri, from the Turku gig)