Before the promise of a hiatus from touring in 2017, Anneke van Giersbergen seems to be cramming in as many shows as she can before she gets to work on her next album. She stopped by Tavastia’s Semifinal Club on May 13th, 2016, and we made sure that we’d be there to cover it! We also managed to grab her for a few minutes to ask about all of her collaborations, which you can read over here! Check out the gallery here.
I’m a surprisingly big fan of Anneke for someone who doesn’t actually listen to much of her music. She has one of the most unique, haunting voices I’ve ever heard, and after seeing her with Arjen Lucassen (AYREON, THE GENTLE STORM) last year, I made a deal with myself that I’d go to any and every show of hers that I possibly can.
Semifinal was sold out and packed full, which had us wondering, essentially since the show was announced, why she was playing such a small venue – she and Arjen Lucassen had no trouble bringing a good crowd into Nosturi. Perhaps it was simply timing – there was already ENTWINE with ARION at the Virgin Oil Co. and EGOTRIPPI upstairs at Tavastia. One of the many reasons that acoustic cover shows are really fun is because you get to hear some songs the artist likes, influences or songs they enjoy singing. Anneke van Giersbergen has worked with anyone and everyone and has such an unusual voice, so it’s easy to imagine that she has some interesting influences and would play some unexpected songs.
Anneke came out on stage about 10 minutes late, greeting the crowd and fixing up a few sound issues. She mentioned that the last time she was in Helsinki she was with Danny Cavanagh, and asked who was at that show (nearly half). She was also here with Arjen Lucassen, which answered her question of where the other half of the crowd came from, to some laughs. She got things started with a song by THE GATHERING called “My Electricity.”
She mentioned that the previous day she accidentally knocked over her guitar and now it wouldn’t tune properly. I can’t imagine it was that bad, as to my uneducated ear it sounded good enough, but it seemed to be bothering her a bit throughout the show (though the crowd didn’t seem to mind) – towards the end she was jokingly singing that she couldn’t get it in tune, but someone in the crowd sang back to her, “we don’t caaaaaare!”
After “Songbird” by FLEETWOOD MAC, she told a story about being young (15-16) and getting very drunk at a local festival and passing out in the street and having a chat with her very angry mother the next day. She said she had that teenage attitude where you think you know everything, and then ultimately had a long conversation about life and growing up and her mother said afterwards that she thought she had made a friend. She mentioned also that when she was 16, she didn’t know anything, and when you’re 30 you start to think maybe your parents were right, and then when you have your own kids… then it makes sense! This was the backstory to “My Mother Said.” This is a really touching song. I don’t have any kids myself, but I certainly understand my parents a lot better at 30 than I did at 16. It’s another reason these small shows are so nice to be a part of – you can hear the stories behind some songs and get some backstory and learn about the artist.
After “Sex on Fire” by KINGS OF LEON a few songs later, she told a fun little tale about performing at a small wedding of only twenty-five or so people and singing that song with a little 1-year-old girl standing up front and center, staring wide-eyed at her, and her muffling the word “sex” awkwardly, not because she thought the little girl understood anything, but because the parents were looking on so disapprovingly, to the amusement of the crowd. She then went on to say that people always ask her for two things at acoustic shows: SLAYER (why, she wonders?) – which led to a nice story about the one time she tried SLAYER and completely fucked it up – and Devin Townsend. This was something I had been hoping and hoping for, and I was NOT disappointed! She picked a good one, “Ih-Ah!,” which is one of my favorite slow Devin songs, and she absolutely nailed it. There’s another experience off my bucket list towards me dying happy!
The next story we were told was about her aunt. Whenever they were together when Anneke was young, her aunt always asked her to sing “Broken Wings” by MISTER MISTER because she liked the song and she liked Anneke‘s voice. So, a while ago at a show where her aunt was in the audience, she decided to learn the song to sing for her, but as luck would have it, her aunt didn’t remember this at all. With all due respect to Tony Kakko and the NORTHERN KINGS, who have a great version of this song, this was the best version I’ve heard yet! She has such a command of the song and her aunt was certainly right, she has a voice that can really bring out the dynamics!
Another one of the best things about these small, intimate acoustic shows (the list goes on), is that the crowd gets a chance to interact with whoever is on stage. After “Broken Wings,” a girl in the crowd shouted, “Anneke will you marry me?” and said that she’s married but would divorce her husband for her. Anneke is always really cute and clever and always returns the calls quite smoothly; on this occasion she said that she’s married too, but they’d see what they could work out and she’ll give her an answer after the show. She then said she’d play one more song, and though the crowd tried to convince her to play more songs, things were winding down. She mentioned that she’s used to driving around with her husband and son, with the guitar and all the merch, but said that this time it’s just her and a suitcase flying. She said she did manage to bring some CDs and promised that after the show she would come and sit and chat with everyone about life and the universe, and thanked everyone for removing themselves from their couch on a Friday evening to come and see her. She finished her set with “Drowning Man” by U2 and headed off stage to some massive cheers from the crowd.
Of course, she wasn’t gone very long and as the crowd cheered her back on stage, she allowed herself a moment of goofiness to pause and bat her eyelashes, waiting for more applause, before she took her spot again. She got things going once again with “Who Wants to Live Forever” by QUEEN, followed by “Wish You Were Here” by PINK FLOYD – a song that her voice particularly suits – wow! The crowd harassed her to play “Circles,” but she said she would play a different song that everyone knows and has to sing along with: “Jolene” by Dolly Parton! It’s quite funny that very few people were singing along unless she called for it – the impulse is there, but in such a small venue where everyone can hear everything (including the thumping from EGOTRIPPI up at Tavastia), no one wanted to do anything to take away from Anneke‘s singing. “Jolene” was a great song to go out on and the singalong was really fantastic!
I can’t recommend Anneke‘s shows enough. She’s so sweet and fun and good-humored, she sings unbelievably, and she has fun and takes it easy – it’s not all serious business up there. Plus, acoustic gigs are fun because you don’t need to wear earplugs so you can really get a feel for the music. Plus, you can hear all of her stories and even chat with her a bit. Her song selection is always great and she is just such a lovely person – all smiles all the time. Even better, you’ve got the smiles on the faces in the crowd, stretched so wide that you start worrying that heads will fall off. You can tell how really and truly beloved she is just by looking at the dedicated fans in the audience who can’t get enough of her. We’ll be making an effort to get up to Jämsä for the last THE SIRENS show in Finland before she stops touring for a while, and I definitely recommend going out to see her any time you get the opportunity!
1. My Electricity (The Gathering)
2. Songbird (Fleetwood Mac)
3. My Mother Said
4. Saturnine (The Gathering)
5. I’m on Fire (Bruce Springsteen)
6. Locked Away (The Gathering)
7. Sex on Fire (Kings of Leon)
8. Ih-Ah! (Devin Townsend Project)
9. Broken Wings (Mister Mister)
10. Drowning Man (U2)
11. Who Wants to Live Forever (Queen) (encore)
12. Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd) (encore)
13. Jolene (Dolly Parton) (encore)
Written by Bear Wiseman
Photos by Jana Blomqvist