30.9.2022 Ramses II & The Rasmus @ Helsingin Jäähalli, Helsinki

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After representing Finland at the Eurovision Song Contest with their hit single, “Jezebel,” THE RASMUS performed their first domestic arena show at Helsingin Jäähalli on September 30th, 2022. While they recently released their latest album, “Rise,” the show was meant to be a celebration of the multi-platinum-selling rock band as a whole, focusing on their newest releases, greatest hits, as well as some classics.

Supporting the alternative rock act was RAMSES II (or Rami Shikebenin), performing his biggest gig so far. The local performer was unknown to me before this evening, but we heard that his career took off after his debut single, “Villieläin,” reached a top spot on Spotify. Rami Shikebenin‘s music is best described as dreamy Suomi-pop, sung entirely in Finnish. A lot of people seemed to be interested in his performance, as a fairly impressive crowd had already gathered in front of the stage. I didn’t know any of the songs, but the Lady Gaga-inspired “Pe La Su” was the one that stuck out the most. With a set that lasted about 30 minutes, Shikebenin delivered an excellent and dynamic set. He definitely delivered, as he knew how to hype up the audience quite much.

Admittedly, soft and dreamy Suomi-pop is just not really my cup of tea and with the knowledge that THE RASMUS‘ set would focus on a lot of their older material (in other words, their heavier stuff), the pairing of both acts felt like a bit of an odd choice to me. In that aspect, a band like ICON FOR HIRE – who are joining THE RASMUS on their European tour – made a lot more sense to me due to the parallels in their music and the possibility that their audiences are far more similar.

Even while having read the event’s information and having seen THE RASMUS promote the show, I still wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from their performance at Jäähalli. I listened to THE RASMUS quite a lot as a teenager, as they became hugely popular in Western Europe with the release of “Dead Letters.” I also stopped following them in recent years when their music became increasingly poppy. However, when the 4-piece set the stage, I was hit by a tidal wave of nostalgia from the first notes of “First Day of My Life.”

The nostalgia train was geared up and ready to go and it turns out it didn’t have any stops on its route, as the band continued with “Guilty.” Based on those two songs, new guitarist Emppu Suhonen is a great addition to the band, who seemingly also re-energized the rest of the guys. As a performer, she’s pretty entertaining to watch, moving along to the music dynamically and kicking her legs along to the beat during “In My Life.”

While the first three songs of the setlist came from “Dead Letters,” next up was “No Fear” from “Hide From the Sun,” an excellent song to sing along to. The addition of Suhonen also meant that the band had to revise their live versions a little bit and as an addition, there were really beautiful harmonies whenever the band sang “ooh-oh.” The setlist was interspersed once in a while with some newer material, with “Paradise” being the first song to offer a little bit of a lighter moment, especially before the dark “Time to Burn.”

THE RASMUS had promised the audience that they would bring some guests and guests they did bring! Michael Monroe of HANOI ROCKS fame joined the stage with a saxophone and greeted the audience, announcing his favorite track off the band’s repertoire, “Chill.” For some reason, I was really surprised to hear that he also sang along with singer Lauri Ylönen, despite the fact that Monroe is foremost a vocalist rather than a saxophonist. Their voices blended astoundingly well and it was actually a great rendition of the song. Monroe went totally bananas in the saxophone solo that felt slightly improvised or at least jazzed up a little.

After all the nostalgia, I almost forgot that THE RASMUS had also released a new album. While not really focusing all too much on the material ofrom “Rise,” the band included a couple of songs from the album, with the first one being “Live and Never Die.” While not my personal favorite track, it did make for a very fun and energetic track, including a lot of jumping up and down from the audience. After the band played “Wonderman,” they invited drummer Aki Hakala to the front of the stage and started playing some acoustic songs along with TRIOSIS+, a string quartet with three violin players and a cellist. Together they started playing “Sophia,” “Ten Black Roses,” and then invited Suhonen to sing leads in “October & April,” a song that is originally a duet with Anette Olzon (ex-NIGHTWISH, THE DARK ELEMENT).

I guess the band knew at this point that, with all the softer and slower songs, they might lose the audience a little bit, so they invited a new guest to join them on stage: Ilkka Hämäläinen. Even though I’m not entirely sure who he is and why Monroe didn’t re-join the band, he made a pretty damn good sax player on both “Playboys” and the energetic cover of “Ghostbusters.” This was one of the moments during the show when fans just went totally crazy – including me. TRIOSIS+ was invited back to the stage and together they played a very emotional version of “Liquid,” which felt like the introduction to a more mellow part in the setlist. The quartet disappeared from stage again and the band started playing “Rise,” “Immortal,” and “Justify.”

It’s not the first time that bands decide to play a cover of their original song from Vain Elämää and all of its international renditions (WITHIN TEMPTATION, I’m looking at you). In THE RASMUS‘ case, pop singer Ellinoora covered one of their most beautiful ballads, “Funeral Song,” and because the band did promise lots of guests, they subsequently invited the vocalist on stage to sing a duet of the song in Finnish. Unfortunately, personally, this was the only choice I did not fully agree with in the whole setlist, mostly because I feel like this was a missed opportunity. What the band should have done was invite TRIOSIS+ back on stage with their string instruments to play the hauntingly beautiful string parts from the song. Not to say that this was not an okay version – Ellinoora has a good voice and the song does sound fairly decent in Finnish – but I just feel like this could have been a bit more of a goosebumps-inducing song than it actually was.

The show was coming to an end with two more energetic songs, “Livin’ in a World Without You” and “F-F-F-Falling.” And this is where the song selection got a little bit more surprising, as I would have presumed that the band would have rounded up the setlist with “Jezebel,” before coming back for the encore, which would obviously be “In the Shadows.” Instead, they opted to play “In the Shadows,” after which they disappeared for a while from stage, the audience went crazy and clapped loudly, demanding more, and then they finally played “Jezebel.” If you would have thought that this would be the end of the evening, then no, the band ended the setlist with “Sail Away.” While an odd choice for the last track of their setlist, it was a beautiful moment once again, partly thanks to the inclusion of TRIOSIS+.

Altogether, one of the recent consequences of the pandemic is the rising concert ticket prices, with some shows being ridiculously expensive. This is one of the few shows where I can actually say that the audience got a show that was well worth their money in return. The setlist included no less than 24(!) tracks, of which the majority were fan-favorites. Other than that, the production – while fairly minimal – was very well done, specifically regarding the lighting and projections behind the band. More importantly, the band was in incredible shape and sounded really great together. Altogether, this was a night to remember, filled with great vibes in the audience, good music, and a lot of nostalgia.

Written by Laureline Tilkin
Photos by Laureline Tilkin

Setlist

  1. First Day of My Life
  2. Guilty
  3. In My Life
  4. No Fear
  5. Paradise
  6. Time to Burn
  7. Chill (ft. Michael Monroe)
  8. Live and Never Die
  9. Wonderman
  10. Sophia (Acoustic)
  11. Ten Black Roses (Acoustic, ft. Triosis+)
  12. October & April (Acoustic, ft; Triosis+)
  13. Playboys
  14. Ghostbusters (Ray Parker Jr. cover)
  15. Liquid (ft. Triosis+)
  16. Rise
  17. Immortal
  18. Justify
  19. Funeral Song (with Ellinoora)
  20. Livin’ in a World Without You
  21. F-F-F-Falling
  22. In the Shadows
  23. Jezebel (Encore)
  24. Sail Away (ft. Triosis+) (Encore)