When the Finnish punk band from Heinola found themselves in Tampere during their autumn club tour, we had no choice but to be there. Formed in 1991, this band has been gracing us with plenty of hits over the years, and it came as no surprise that the show at Pakkahuone was sold out. Their last album, “Kunnes siitä tuli totta,” was released in 2015, but luckily the lack of new material was no problem. Well, singer Toni Wirtanen’s participation in the popular TV show Vain Elämää may have influenced some to attend this particular show. Check out the full gallery here.
When I arrived about an hour after the doors had opened, the place was already packed. Before I got to enjoy the intense nostalgia trip that is APULANTA, I was introduced to a band called HUORA. This Tampere-born punk phenomenon acted as the second support band for APULANTA. (Sadly I missed the first act, LEMMENPYSSYT). I had heard the name HUORA before, but I had no idea what to expect. I must say I was positively surprised! I was mostly focusing on the singer, Anni Lötjönen, because her energy was insane and she very much overshadowed the rest of the band members with her passionate performance. It was clear the crowd was feeling them too, and I saw quite a few people singing along to the material from their album “Normaali?,” released in October 2017. Some of the songs in their short set were new, and the band was excited to share them with their home audience. Lötjönen in particular was quite emotional and gave a huge thanks to everyone who had showed up. As far as support acts go, HUORA was definitely a good choice, and Lötjönen’s easygoing attitude put a smile on my face. Will go see these guys again in the future!
Now it was time for APULANTA! The show started with a song from the album “Ehjä” (1996), “Poistuisitko mun elämästäni,” and from the first beat the crowd was alive and clapping along to the chorus. I didn’t even remember this particular song, since I’d last seen the band perform years ago, but when the guys immediately followed the first song with another oldie, “Mitä kuuluu,” I was in. And when next up was my personal favorite, “Ravistettava ennen käyttöä,” I knew I was going to enjoy this show.
At this point Toni Wirtanen, the lead singer and guitar player, took a break to thank everyone for showing up on a Friday night. He gave a special shout-out to the dedicated fans in the front row and said the next song was for those who had been with them from the beginning. “For the old fans,” he laughed. It was time for “Mato,” a song I personally didn’t know before Jenni Vartiainen covered it on Vain Elämää. Now I found myself liking this faster and rougher version of the original slow one.
This show was the first time I saw the new bass player, Ville Mäkinen, who joined in 2014, playing with the band. As a former BOMBFUNK MC’s fan, it was cool to see Mäkinen in this completely different environment. Because Mr. Wirtanen has such a strong presence on stage, it is sometimes difficult to stop looking at his intense style of singing, but when “Vasten mun kasvojani” started, all I could hear was Mäkinen and his bass. When you hear this song on the radio or listen to it on Spotify, you can’t tell how strong and intricate the bass is in this piece. I’ve always liked the song and now I thought it was even better.
Before the next song, Wirtanen apologized for what we were about to witness. The band surprised us with “Soita mua,” a song Wirtanen performed on Vain Elämää (originally by Sanni). The people who aren’t necessarily big fans of the show and the cover versions that come out of it will probably disagree with me, but I enjoyed it. Though a bit messy, it was funny and entertaining. I was already looking forward to hearing more of the cover songs.
After “Ruhtinaat” and the beautiful “Armo,” we were rewarded with “Vapaa.” Toni Wirtanen originally wrote this song for Kaija Koo, but in my opinion it fit nicely into APULANTA’s setlist. This was the second time the guys performed this live and you could hear it. The key is slightly higher than in most APULANTA songs, and at times Wirtanen struggled with the higher notes. But on the other hand, APULANTA has never been about perfection; at least that’s how I see it. Their music is about emotion and performing each song with all their passion. Sometimes the crowd was singing along so loudly I couldn’t hear Wirtanen’s voice anyway.
At least that is certainly what happened during “Jumala.” I love going to shows and being able to belt out the lyrics with the rest of the crowd. From the first verse of this old hit, everyone at the sold out Pakkahuone was singing along, and since the show mainly consisted of their hit songs instead of focusing on one album only, there were a lot chances for us to warm up our vocal cords. After “Saasta,” Wirtanen said the next song was a surprise for the drummer, Simo “Sipe” Santapukki. We got a song I used to listen to a lot as a teenager; it was time for “Hiekka.” The crowd was pumped, especially when Wirtanen finished the song with a fantastic guitar solo.
Wirtanen was the one who interacted with the crowd the most, but Santapukki threw in a comment every now and then. He also joked about how he almost got lost on his way to the venue because of all the construction work, but a nice mother-daughter duo showed him the way. According to him, these same people were also featured in the music video of the next song on the setlist, “Valot pimeyksien reunoilla.” This song has such a different feel to it when you compare it to most of their older material, but it was very clear how important a song it is to the band. I must agree it has a strong and powerful message, and it owned its place as many people’s favorite. Strangely, it was the only song featured from their latest album, “Kunnes siitä tuli totta.” Too quickly, Wirtanen announced it was time for the last song of the set – before the obvious encore, that is. “Pahempi toistaan” had the crowd going absolutely insane, and Wirtanen was milking it, making us sing the chorus without the band’s backup.
When the band came back on stage, they played “Koneeseen kadonnut,” another one of my favorites, and I would have been surprised if this one had not been on the setlist. Again the crowd was screaming the bridge along with Wirtanen. At this point I didn’t know what else the guys could have in store for us, but Wirtanen surprised everyone when he asked us which song they should play next. Immediately it was decided by the singer that the next one would be “Liikaa,” a track from one of their first albums, “Kolme,” released in 1997. The official last song of the night came from the same album, though it had a far lighter mood. We got to jump and scream along to “Anna mulle piiskaa,” and the guys made everyone laugh when they broke into a folky bit mid-song. I still have no idea what it was, but it was the perfect finish. After this good spanking session, the band got the traditional crowd photo taken, and I was quite sad I didn’t catch the guitar pick that was thrown my way!
All-in-all, it was really good to see APULANTA live again, and they certainly still know how to keep a crowd entertained. What I enjoyed the most were Mäkinen’s moments with the double bass, Santapukki’s trademark drumming, and Wirtanen’s perfect imperfection behind the microphone. All of this is what makes APULANTA, and I can’t wait to see – and most importantly hear – what the guys will do in the future. I hope you all already have tickets to APULANTA’s spring concert hall tour – I know it will be special!
1. Poistuisitko mun elämästäni
2. Mitä kuuluu
3. Ravistettava ennen käyttöä
5. Vasten mun kasvojani
6. Soita mua (S&M) (Sanni cover)
9. Vapaa (Kaija Koo cover)
10. Poltettu karma
14. Valot pimeyksien reunoilla
15. Pahempi toistaan
16. Koneeseen kadonnut (encore)
17. Liikaa (encore)
18. Anna mulle piiskaa (encore)
Written by Sara Kangasniemi
Photos by Charlotta Rajala