We went to Tampere to see a concert by Värttinä, who are on tour in celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of their album Oi dai, which really broke them in Finland and on the world music scene. One of the highlights of this particular tour was the return of Sari Kaasinen, who had left the group only after I first discovered them with their album Kokko. I had seen them in concert eight times before, the last times (two concerts) in 2016, while the only time outside of Finland was in Toronto at the Mod Club in 2006. Mark joined me at that show. We bought our tickets for the Tampere concert on-line while still in Canada. The show was at G Livelab at 7 p.m., with doors opening at 6. We walked over from our hostel.
I didn’t think that Värttinä would attract many fans who would be waiting outside G Livelab–in the rain–before the doors opened, but when we arrived shortly before 6 there was already one couple waiting. The demographic of the typical Värttinä fan is older, around forty years and up. We checked our coats for free and then headed inside. G Livelab has no reserved seating and was set up with rows of tables that seated four. All but one of the tables in the front row was designated as reserved, so we took the table on the far left side as it was still in the front row. From knowing how the group set up onstage, Susan Aho would be sitting right in front of us. I noticed that the reserved tables all had drinks set out before any of the guests had arrived. The group must have known who would be sitting where, and arranged to have their favourite drinks already for them. Värttinä violinist Lassi Logrén was standing by our table and after he finished talking to someone I reintroduced myself as I have met him before (and even went out for coffee with him when Värttinä was in Toronto for “Lord of the Rings” in 2006).
As we were sitting at a table set for four, we waited until people approached us to ask if they could sit with us. A couple in their sixties, whose names we learned were Kirsi and Veijo, asked if they could join us. We had a good time chatting with them in English, and Kirsi was a Värttinä fan from the very early days. She was lively and ebullient and was enthusiastic about seeing them play.
I found it most ironic that the concert tour, held to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the release of the album Oi dai, began with two songs that were not on the album. At one point near the end of the concert the singers asked the audience to identify the songs from Oi dai that they hadn’t performed yet. Some people shouted out “Miinan laulu”, which we were all waiting for since that song is known for its sexy lyrics. But the group instead launched into a super-sombre single line from the Oi dai song “Yks on huoli”, which, even they had to admit, was the slowest and most depressing song on the album. The singers sang it with stretched frowns and forlorn expressions. After a single line they said that was enough. Dismal “Yks on huoli” didn’t make it as part of the jubilant anniversary concert experience.
I had been in contact with Susan while I was still in Canada because I was interested in buying her solo CD, Pieniä eleitä. She wrote back to tell me she would bring one for me after the show. After the show, as Susan was packing up her accordion, I motioned to her and she realized who I was–the fan from Canada who wanted to buy her CD–and she opened her case and brought it out. She explained that it was her “COVID album”, which she worked on during the lockdown. We talked for a long time, and although the band was actually in a hurry to pack up, she spent a lot of time with Mark and me, talking and posing for photos.
I wrote to her the following day to ask for the set list, and she sent it:
Matalii ja mustii + Marialaulu
Vot vot ja niin niin
Mie oon musta
Tupa täynnä tuppasuita
Varrii ompi zaijuvesj
Susan Aho holding her solo CD, Pieniä eleitä
Mark and me with Susan
Mari and Sari Kaasinen after the show
Right outside our hostel on Åkerlundinkatu we saw the Walk of Fame Finland. I took a photo of the star awarded to Värttinä: