What better way to spend a Saturday night than watching live music? Finnish pop-rock band SUNRISE AVENUE kicked off their European tour with the WONDERLAND ORCHESTRA on March 5th, 2016. The tour will mostly take them through Germany and its bordering countries, but started things up at the Helsinki Ice Hall (Jäähalli) before they set out to conquer Europe. Musicalypse had to be there to see what they had to offer.
I confess that with the sheer magnitude of shows I saw last fall, I needed a little break this year. There have been a few shows that I simply skipped just because I didn’t have it in me to do any writing. That being said, it seemed fitting to get back into things by seeing a band I’ve never seen live before doing a special show. I’m passingly familiar with SUNRISE AVENUE and I’m a sucker for orchestrated shows, so this seemed like a good opportunity to clean off the rust and get back out there.
As promised, the doors opened at 19:00, and fortunately the tickets let everyone know that the band wouldn’t be on stage until 21:00. As the crowd trickled into their seats, all that could be seen on stage was a black curtain, keyboards, and a grand piano.
As the music began to play (and right on time no less), a spotlight shone on the curtain to reveal singer Samu Haber’s silhouette as he began to sing the words to “Wonderland.” This was an obvious choice for a starter, since they were playing with the WONDERLAND ORCHESTRA. The slow rise of the curtain was nice and dramatic as it revealed the band as well as the rows of orchestra behind them. And credit where credit is due, whoever was in charge of lighting had put their heart and soul into making this whole song look fantastic! Also, the backing screen and central screens (on the hockey scoreboard) were a nice addition to help the crowd at the back and up in the nosebleeds to see what was going on a bit better. And when it didn’t have the band on it, it played some other images, such as psychedelic space lightning.
I admit to being a huge fan of adding orchestras to music, and this show did nothing to dissuade me from the joy I get from such events. Not only does it add an extra level of dynamism and oomph to the sound, but they were able to add little bits of extra style to some of the songs. There was a clear bluegrass influence in songs like “Kiss Goodbye,” “Sail Away with Me,” and “I Can Break Your Heart,” while later songs in the set like “Somebody Will Find Your Someday” and “Out of Tune” were quite jazzy. “Funkytown” and “I Don’t Dance” let tour pianist Osmo Ikonen come out to shine with his own rap parts, and “Unholy Ground” was bordering on Tarantino “spaghetti western” -style country. It was a huge shake-up from the standard pop-rock sound that SUNRISE AVENUE has, and certainly a welcome one!
It seems like Haber’s been taking care of his voice over the years, because he sounds exactly like he always has. I particularly like his singing voice – there’s something unique to it, and it suits their style of music really nicely. He only had a few speeches during the show, likely due to it’s slightly-over-two-hour length, but he made sure to welcome everyone after “Little Bit Love.” He certainly had his fun with the crowd too, asking who had seen SUNRISE AVENUE before, who was seeing them for the first time, and who was single – and then suggesting that the boys in the venue make note of where the single girls are before playing “Somebody Will Find You Someday.” Though most of his speeches were in Finnish, he did speak in English a bit, and when he switched back to Finnish, he said laughingly, “buy a dictionary,” to all the non-Finns in the crowd. He was back and forth with the guitar throughout the night, and brought out a tambourine for songs like “Kiss Goodbye.”
The leftover stage space where the orchestra ended was perhaps a touch large for only three mobile band members, and when there was a stompin’ violin solo before “I Can Break Your Heart,” the violinist wasn’t even up front and center, instead back near the rest of the orchestra. The same goes for the saxophone solo in “Somebody Will Find You Someday” and the trumpet in “Nothing is Over.” It was, however, nice to see some of the orchestra get a chance to show off what they’ve got (and what they’ve got was great).
About three quarters of the way into the show, the curtain closed and the band appeared at the back of the sound booth on a tiny stage to play a couple of songs acoustically, with Ikonen on cello instead of keys. They gave us a taste of “Nothing is Over” and “Hurtsville” before heading back. This was a tad strange – if they were going to include an acoustic part, perhaps it might have been more logical to do 3-4 songs, as opposed to just two. Arguably, that would have taken away from the orchestra too much though, so it somewhat makes you wonder why they bothered to include it at all. It did, however, allow for the orchestra to really blow our minds with their own song as the band made their way back before getting into “Unholy Ground.”
I was clear that the show would wrap up soon when Haber dedicated “Welcome to My Life” to everyone who had come out to support their music, and they naturally wrapped things up with “Fairytale Gone Bad.” The audience was able to scream them back on stage for one last song, however, and they returned for an encore just after the two-hour mark: “Hollywood Hills.”
One nice thing about SUNRISE AVENUE is that they’re an easy band to listen to. Their music is fairly cheesy and lovey-dovey, but it’s casual and catchy and easy to listen to. Throw an orchestra in the mix, and you’ve shaken up something tried and true to make it a brand new experience. This is a great band for all ages, whether you’re in it for the nostalgia, the sound, or the lyrics, and in the ice hall setting with great lights and fantastic backing orchestration, this was certainly a night that will stand out to the fans, and created a worthy impression for any first-timers in the crowd like myself.
02. Little Bit Love
03. Rising Sun
04. Kiss Goodbye
05. Forever Yours
07. Sail Away with Me
08. I Can Break Your Heart
09. Something Sweet
10. Somebody Will Find You Someday
11. Nothing is Over (acoustic)
12. Hurtsville (acoustic)
13. Unholy Ground
15. Out of Tune
16. Girl Like You
17. Sweet Symphony
18. I Don’t Dance
19. Welcome to My Life
20. Fairytale Gone Bad
21. Hollywood Hills (encore)
Written by Bear Wiseman
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