7.8.2021 Dirt & Shiraz Lane @ Tavastia, Helsinki

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It was a busy heavy metal night in Finland! While some of our webzine’s staff were facing the stormy weather at Saarihelvetti in Tampere on August 7th, 2021, I chose to remain stationed in Helsinki, covering not one, but two events. After a quick stop at On the Rocks, I marched my way from the railway station to Tavastia, where a queue would usually form outside of the venue. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the venue has set a limit on its capacity, thus entering the event went smoothly. Both DIRT and SHIRAZ LANE were performing and if you have seen the latter perform, you know what that means: massive energy and an evening to remember.

Like last year, Tavastia had taken every possible measure to guarantee a safe evening for its staff, the audience, and the bands. The audience was divided into several rows, of which a maximum of twelve people could stand, so that they could keep to the social distancing rules. I think, unfortunately, the front rows in particular had a tiny bit more people crammed in there than was allowed, but luckily people were mostly wearing face masks and keeping their distance due to the deteriorating situation of the pandemic in Finland.

The evening started off with the heavy metal act DIRT. I admit that I haven’t been able to really check the band in-depth even though this band has been recommended to me a couple of times before. Basically, they’re everything you want out of a heavy metal band: a classic formation of five, guitar-driven, with ripped-up clothing, mustaches, headbanging, and yes… even sweat! Admittedly, as usual in front of the stage, the mix was a little bit unbalanced at the beginning of the show, as the drums and rhythm guitar were more prominent in the mix, making it kind of complex to hear the vocals. However, as the show progressed, this seemed to get better.

DIRT included a lot of new (and yet unnamed) songs in their setlist, from their upcoming debut effort. From what I can tell, these are all hard-hitting, heavy songs with dirty riffs; all-in-all, music that you want to head-bang to, so in short, that first album is going to be quite something. The set also included a short impressive drum solo, to which the guitarists added something to the energy by playing softly with the drums, leading into a great track. Energetic frontman, Aleksi Tiainen made his best to entertain the audience, often sitting on the edge of the stage singing to the front row and, during “Cold Sweat,” he even joined the audience for a while, as the dynamics of this song require a party mood.

The five-piece, in general, was really amped up and energetic throughout the show, with guitarist Kappe Koutonen potentially the most in his element: continuously headbanging, hitting his guitar hard, and at times mixing in air-drumming to the beats of the songs. The band ended their show with their biggest hit, “Low Life,” which by now has already gathered over a million streams. By the end of it, there was a fun moment where both guitarists played each other’s instrument while they were still hanging around their own necks, which pretty sums up the performance of this band to me: these musicians were clearly having the times of their lives, while not forgetting the musical aspect of things. It’s clear to see why SHIRAZ LANE asked them to join their tour.

Then, it was finally time for SHIRAZ LANE, one of Finland’s most prominent hard rock bands who are guaranteed to turn any crowd into a gigantic party. I looked around me and even though the event was completely sold out, it seemed like a low turnout for the five-piece. By now, they’re filling up most venues in Finland, however, that didn’t seem to bother the band much, as they were happy to be on stage again; in Hannes‘ words, “it’s been too long,” and quite possibly this was the most energetic performance I’ve seen from them yet.

The band had switched up the setlist severely, as their prior shows were mostly focused on Carnival Daysmaterial, however, now they had some new songs to play from their EP, Vibration I,” making the setlist a well-balanced staple of their entire discography. They included some hard-hitting tracks from their debut album, like opener “Wake Up,” “Mental Slavery,” and “Story to Tell,” but also hits from their sophomore album like its title track, “Tidal Wave,” “Harder to Breathe,” and the progressive “Reincarnation.”

Singer Hannes Kett was surely in a good mood and he used the time in his speeches to thank the audience thoroughly. Because of some international fans, he often switched to English to make sure everyone was included, talking a lot about peace, love, and how we should all be unified. During “Carnival Days,” the audience was hyped up and they were either dancing excitedly or jumping up and down. As per usual, SHIRAZ LANE doesn’t use a backing track on this track, while the studio recording has a smooth and jazzy saxophone, the guitars take over that melody and do an outstanding job in taking over that lead part, that’s so important to the atmosphere of this track.

After all the energetic songs at the beginning of the set, the band surprised the audience with the beautiful ballad, “Bleeding,” off their debut effort, allowing a little bit of time to regather strength and energy. The band had hinted on their social media that they might be playing some new material during their show and the song that followed kept that promise, with the new track called “Animal.” The hyper-energetic song was such a break from the atmosphere of the prior song, that it gave the evening a nice flow. Following up with one of their catchiest songs, “Broken Into Pieces,” provided an excellent opportunity for fans to sing along to their music loudly, after which “Story to Tell” gave a more positive atmosphere and the audience got crazy when Hannes Kett jumped into the audience, walking row by row ensuring he had contact with everyone downstairs, showing why wireless mics are a great invention.

I’m always happy when the band includes “Reincarnation” in their setlists because it’s such an unusual song in their repertoire, proggier, longer, interesting, and its live version surely is to die for. Before “You Will Remain,” Hannes took the time to give a heartfelt speech to the audience and the band left the stage after the incredible “Do You,” but luckily still had a few tricks on their sleeves for us as they came back with the real closing duo of the evening, “Harder to Breathe” and their energetic SAVAGE GARDEN cover, “To the Moon and Back.”

In general, this event has been postponed for such a long time that I think both bands were very happy that it finally happened. They were both equally crushing their sets, looking like they were having so much fun, and just really happy. When a show is arranged with the safety of the people in mind, it also gives everyone a further feeling of comfort, knowing that you can be there in the moment with the bands and enjoy the music, without having to worry too much about the pandemic. Altogether, it was a great evening filled with heavy metal and hard rock music.

Written by Laureline Tilkin
Photos by Laureline Tilkin

Setlist

  1. Wake Up
  2. Tidal Wave
  3. Keep It Alive
  4. Revolution
  5. Mental Slavery
  6. Carnival Days
  7. Bleeding
  8. Animal (new song)
  9. Broken Into Pieces
  10. Story to Tell
  11. Money Talks
  12. Reincarnation
  13. You Will Remain
  14. Do You
  15. Harder to Breathe (encore)
  16. To the Moon and Back (encore)