Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Salem's gig in Korjaamo, Helsinki: review

Did you all hear it??? What a fabulous show!

The gig began at 8.00pm UK time - 10.00pm in Finland. The band were all on stage, but one important member was missing :) After an enthusiastic introduction by the presenters, the band launched into the familiar intro of "Part Of It" which appears to have replaced "Red Rock" as the opening number. Eventually Salem entered the stage to a very warm reception from the audience, who appeared to be a mixture of the devoted, the enthusiastic and the curious.

As befits his now-official status as Sweden's best dressed man, Salem was as stylish and handsome as ever, dressed in a dark suit, dark tie and white shirt with of course his usual braces. His hair has also grown a little since his recent haircut too, and I'm quite happy about that. The guys were also as well dressed as ever - they really are a smart looking crew, aren't they!

Anyway enough talk about the very appealing visual aspects of the show...let's talk about the music which is the most important thing!

As I said earlier, "Part Of It" kicked off the show, with pre-recorded backing vocals in addition to the live band, although I thought this worked very well in a live context. I liked Salem's hand gesture when he sang that famous line "tell your friends how big....", however he appeared pretty restrained during this song, putting extra concentration into his vocal performance. The electronic loop running through the song then cleverly segued into a new version of the ever-popular and anthemic "It's True" (which I guess he played during his recent club tour). Mixing rock and dance influences, I thought this was a particularly impressive version of the song. Of course, Salem being Salem, he mixed up the first and second verses of the song. Aah, he never disappoints ;) Anyway what did surprise me was its inclusion at such an early stage in the set, as we're probably more used to hearing it towards the end.

Next came the return of "Twelve Fingers" of course one of my favourite Salem songs and always a welcome addition in the live set. Again slightly reworked with a new keyboard line running through it: a good version - but being completely honest here, it's probably not my favourite version of the song. Of course that's just my own personal taste and I'm sure many of you will disagree! Again he got the first and second verses of the song mixed up but we expect that by now!!

A more traditional version of "It's Only You (Part II)" came next, which immediately was recognised by many in the audience, right from the opening notes onwards. I particularly liked Salem and Adam's joint vocals on the "if you ever will be mine" part of the song.

Then Salem removed his tie! He told the audience about the last time he tried to get to Helsinki for a gig, and of course we all know how that turned out :( however we're so happy that he's here, he is here, it makes us happy! Which is a cue for a song....the new version of "I'm So Happy" to be precise, which is built around a rolling guitar riff and Adam is certainly the star of this song. The new version brings a further contrast to a song which always had a strong contrast to start with: the original's bitter lyrics against the happy singalong melody, but as I said in a previous post on here, there is now a sad, regretful feel to the new version. Nevertheless it doesn't stop the crowd singing along.

Tonight I was paying particular attention to the band's performance as a whole. On the two occasions I've been to see Salem live, the first time was his previous band line-up, then the second time was the current line-up but with the orchestra, so I just realised tonight that I'd never actually watched a Salem concert with his current band line-up, playing a 'band gig' I guess! Of course it goes without saying that they are an extremely tight, well-rehearsed and accomplished group of musicians, who provide a consistently reliable musical backing to the main man himself.

One song added to the live set in the recent club tour was "This Is For" which again relied strongly on pre-recorded vocal backing tracks however worked very well with live instrumentation. (In a similar vein, I had hoped to hear "Bloody Breakfast" tonight, which was featured in the club tour. Oh well, maybe some other time). Anyway Salem removed his glasses, and the band launched into the album version of current single "Split My Personality". I thought the song might have been reworked slightly in the style of the highly acclaimed Bassflow remix, but it still worked very well particularly in this band-version.

Salem put his glasses back on...however later on in the set he removed his glasses again and also removed his jacket, to reveal the very familiar braces - Salem's trademark style!

"Astronaut" was also very well-received - I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Finnish fans were so familiar with his pre-"Ignore This" material. Not really much to say about this song except that it was brilliant as usual.

Followed by "Good Song" which as if you need reminding, is my favourite of all Salem songs. I tend to be a little more critical of my favourite songs if the live versions are anything less than perfect: no need for criticism here though, as Salem's vocals were jazzy and soulful as ever, I liked the vocal harmonies on the chorus, and musically it was just spot-on, with a dazzling synth solo by Salem. He may be more restrained now in his live performances, but there were still the occasional moments tonight when he went into "mad-professor" mode, throwing himself over the keyboard or staring upwards into the air, or headbanging.

One of the main highlights for me tonight was "4 O'Clock", which was based on the Adrian Lux remix of the song, which is probably my favourite version of it. Again the crowd loved this one too.

By this point the crowd were completely eating out of Salem's hand and they welcomed "Roxy" like an old friend. . Even this song got a little dance-makeover with new little keyboard lines running through it.

And finally....what else but "Keep On Walking" to close the show, which was rapturously received by everyone at Korjaamo. He's bound to be sick of singing this song by now, but you wouldn't know it as he still puts his heart and soul into every single performance of it, making it sound as fresh as it was when we first heard it in full, some 362 days ago if I remember correctly :)

Salem, Nisse, Jakob and Adam then took their bows and left the stage, but the very appreciative audience wanted more, as we all did! I think the presenter said something like "scream if you want him back" and boy, did they scream. The band came back on stage for one more number, an energetic "Virgin Mary" which was a foot-tapping and fabulous end to the evening.

Unfortunately that really was the end, no more encores. Still I guess that Salem and the band could play for four hours, but we'd still be sad when it ended; however you also have that exhilarated feeling at the end of a Salem show, with the realisation that you've been part of a truly special experience.

Salem Al Fakir remains a charismatic and outstandingly talented artist and this terrific show just proved, yet again, that he is the very best, backed by an excellent band who just get better and better at everything they do. Thank you all for a wonderful night, and thanks to YLE for webcasting the show worldwide so that we were all able to see it :))


Anonymous said...

Nice review of the gig. It really was a wonderful evening. Really liked Father McKenzie also who supported Salem Al Fakir.

Was close to the stage. Saw the setlist when it was taped to the floor for Adam, Salem etc. My friend grabbed the setlist after the gig. Brooklyn Sun was listed as the last track after Virgin Mary but was not played. Bloody Breakfast was also listed but replaced by Good Song ;)

Laura (EuropeCrazy) said...

Hi there!

Glad you liked the review, especially as you were actually at the concert, so I hope I managed to capture some of the feel of the show even though I was only watching on the internet.

I thought Father McKenzie were very good too, they've got some good songs and I hope they go on to have a successful career.

That was a very good souvenir for your friend - and thanks for the exclusive info! I love Brooklyn Sun but don't feel that it would be the right song to close a concert whereas Virgin Mary was a very energetic end-song. I wonder why they changed Bloody Breakfast to Good Song though?