30.7.2022 Rock in the City @ Keskustan Koulun Kenttä, Kerava

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If you live in Finland but haven’t heard of the Rock in the City festival yet, for shame! This festival takes place in many cities around the country, with various different artists playing at each iteration. While some featured artists like Alice Cooper in the headlining slot, others featured URIAH HEEP and DEEP PURPLE, such as the event taking place at Keskuskenttä in Kerava on July 29th-30th, 2022. If legends like that come to town, why not pop by?

We had been interested to see KÄTFISH, but they were forced to cancel at the last minute due to someone testing COVID-positive, so we opted to come a little later in the day, in order to have some time to explore a little more thoroughly, as well as catch STAM1NA‘s set!

Word around the stages seemed to indicate some issues at the festival on this day in general, as STAM1NA came out 10 minutes late, without intro, while there was still background music playing from the speakers. No fucks were given and the band just played over it, but it took a weirdly long time for someone to notice and shut it off. The band went on to put on a pretty standard-excellent festival show, full of sweat and headbanging, but were forced to drop three songs from their set due to the production delays. However, their energy was still where you’d expect it to be and we were excited to hear songs like “Ristiriita,” “Betelgeuse,” “Metropolio,” “Narsisti,” and set-closer “Sirkkeli.” The show was also noteworthy for the guest appearance by Kaarle Viikate (who had played earlier in the day with his own band, VIIKATE) during “Viisi laukausta päähän.”

We only know MELROSE by name thanks to the Aki Kaurismäki movie that featured their music. It seems that they’re a Finnish rock band from the ’80s and their style of rock ‘n’ roll was pretty cool on the whole, and quite entertaining to watch, as their frontman/guitarist was really engaging. As we weren’t familiar with any of their songs, the biggest highlight was “What’s in the Bag,” though nothing else really captivated our attention. The audience, however, seemed to be big fans, as they were loudly singing along, especially during the final track (which we must assume is one of their biggest hits).

Next came one of the biggest highlights of the festival, as well as one of the biggest pulls to get us to attend: URIAH HEEP. These guys have been one of the tour bands for Rock in the City this year, meaning they’ve scheduled thirteen shows in Finland this summer! Opening with “Grazed by Heaven” and “Too Scared to Run,” they immediately proved that they are still having a great time as the audience was swept away by their astounding energy. Vocalist Bernie Shaw was really alive on stage, using his whole body to engage with everyone (younger bands, for shame!) and guitarist and founding member Mick Box was all smiles, despite having had a pretty challenging day, or so Bernie said. Well, we happened to notice that the lights weren’t working properly during the first few tracks at least. When it came time for “Gypsy,” Mick asked the crowd to get headbanging, while “Look at Yourself” was a clear fan-favorite and got the crowd moving. There was plenty of time for the whole band to jam around in the songs and Phil Lanzon‘s little hand flourishes were fun to catch whenever the screens showed close-ups of his keys. Other big hits were “Lady in Black,” which got the entire crowd chanting along, and “Easy Living,” which in turn got everyone dancing. Ultimately, it’s no surprise that URIAH HEEP would be willing to play so many shows here, as everyone loves them.

A hot-pink microphone was the only clue as to who was up next on the smaller stage next. UNIKLUBI played upbeat, catchy music with prominent bass lines and heavily tinkling synths. They seemed to have drawn a decent crowd, so we snuck away to refuel for the rest of the night.

German classic heavy metal act ACCEPT are pretty much always a good show, regardless of whether or not you’re into their music. Between consistently excellent stage lights and ambience created with fog machines, the band wouldn’t even need to be on stage for their show to look good. The fact that they all then come out to start shredding to songs like “Zombie Apocalypse,” “Midnight Mover,” “Shadow Soldiers,” and “Fast as a Shark,” only further improves the experience. The band have a strong presence and were good performers, with a lot of synchronized headbanging and hip-swaying. Naturally, you have to get a little extra hyped for songs like “Metal Heart” and “Balls to the Wall”… I know we sure did!

CYAN KICKS were making waves earlier this year in the Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu with their single “Hurricane,” which was in the running to represent Finland in Eurovision this year (they lost out to THE RASMUS in the end,however). They’re a bit of a Lisa Frank unicorn sparkle of a band, both visually and musically, but they’re pretty good at what they do, leaving a strong stage energy and atmosphere to their shows, not to mention vocalist Susanna Aleksandra‘s great voice and presence. We heard a lot of material from their debut album, I Don’t Love You,” with some newer material mixed in, with their last song being “Gasoline.” The show finished on an odd not, as they had announced that they would be playing their last song, but DEEP PURPLE‘s intro just started, so they naturally disappeared again from stage, without a word, a bit awkwardly – what a shame and we’re sorry to have missed out on that last track.

And thus we reached the end of our weekend adventure in Kerava with DEEP PURPLE. The extremely dramatic “Mars, Bringer of War” by Gustav Holst acted as an intro, playing through the darkness. The crowd seemed to have kept their cool a bit better this day, perhaps in the hopes of remembering the event, though we did notice one guy ripping a fat cigar throughout the show – interesting choice! They opened with the familiar classic “Highway Star” and we were very impressed, right off the bat, with how tight they sounded. Steve Morse was not present, of course, having officially left the band a mere handful of days prior in order to be with his wife, who has cancer, but we were very pleased with his touring replacement, Simon McBride, who kept up the nostalgic guitar feel that DEEP PURPLE are so well-known for.

The performance was a little on the tense side, per vocalist Ian Gillan – who tends to look like he’s not quite sure where he is – but I’ve been told that that’s pretty normal for how he looks on stage; the rest of the band seemed very relaxed and happy to move around and rock out. In between songs, he spoke about a journey (possibly via canoe) on a river, where he rambled randomly about trees and whatnot. This was extremely entertaining, as it sounded like he had smoked a good deal of something very fun, and I wished I was more on the same page with whatever he was talking about – sometimes that thick English accent is hard for natives to follow too. This mystical journey brought us through “Uncommon Man,” which was for the late Jon Lord (ex-keyboards). I heard a few favorites that I was surprised that they play, like “Lazy,” which included a lot of sick soloing from pretty much everyone, including a harmonica solo from Gillan, and OH MAN did everyone sound great! “Perfect Strangers” was also a highlight just because it’s such a great song and Gillan gave a more coherent intro speech to “When a Blind Man Cries,” that got the crowd screaming and cheering. “Space Truckin'” and “Smoke on the Water” are definite songs that I can strike from my need-to-see-live bucket list, and they finished up the set with an encore made up of “Hush,” complete with a mid-song jam, and “Black Night.” Jolly good show!

And thus we headed home after our first true taste of Rock in the City. It was interesting to check it out, and we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on who’s playing where next year! It may be worth our while to come back once more.

Text by Bear Wiseman
Photos by Laureline Tilkin