BLUES PILLS w/ DEATH HAWKS – Rytmikorjaamo, Seinäjoki 17.11.2016

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Blues Pills‘ sophomore effort, Lady in Gold, was released in August, and it built on the success of their 2014 debut. In Finland, the album entered the top 10 on the official charts, so the Sweden-based group have already managed to charm their neighbors on this side of the gulf rather well. This November, Blues Pills treated their Finnish fans to three club gigs, the first of which took place at Rytmikorjaamo, Seinäjoki, on November 17th.

Full gallery HERE!

Listen along to Blues Pills’ setlist here:

2016-11-17-01-death-hawks-rytmikorjaamo-cr-5The domestic psychedelic rockers Death Hawks had been announced as the opening act for the show fairly late, and in fact I hadn’t found out that they were playing until the day of the show. The size of the crowd was pretty modest, so maybe I wasn’t the only one. It’s been 4 years since my last concert at Rytmis, so having become accustomed to the venues in Tampere and Helsinki, I was surprised that there was a MC, who introduced Death Hawks and said Blues Pills would start at 21:30. Seems a bit weird to me at a club show that isn’t a festival, but maybe that’s become the norm while I’ve been away. Anyway, the first two songs of Death Hawks’ set were a little too repetitive for my taste, but things slowly got more interesting after that. Their music included spacey synths and effect-laden guitars, but they had a few fairly straightforward songs as well. Keyboardist Tenho Mattila even played saxophone on two songs, which was a nice addition. The vocals were low in the mix, and it was a little hard to make out what guitarist/vocalist Teemu Markkula was singing, but on the other hand, vocals rarely are the focal point in this genre. There was also very little banter in between songs, though the limited 45-minute slot probably had a lot to do with that. Despite the opening band status, Death Hawks had a black-and-white screen on stage that showed both psychedelic projections and old film footage. The last song, “Black Acid”, was very hypnotic and had a nice groove – I even saw some dude dancing to the rhythm. All-in-all, Death Hawks were all right, though their stage presence could’ve been more engaging. I’d imagine their music works better while listened to at home.

2016-11-17-02-blues-pills-rytmikorjaamo-cr-15Blues Pills started with no intro tape; instead, Elin Larsson greeted the people and asked them to come closer to the stage, and the reserved Southern Ostrobothnians followed suit while the band launched into “Lady in Gold.” Larsson’s outfit was more scant and less hippie-looking than I’d expected based on the band’s press photos, but she definitely had a good reason for it, as she was bouncing around on stage like a Duracell bunny right from the start – it must’ve been hot up there! Despite her best efforts to engage the crowd, it took a while for people to warm up and it wasn’t until “Black Smoke” and “Bliss” were played that you could see some real energy in the audience, and not just polite clapping and cheering. To be fair though, the band started with four new songs, which might’ve been less familiar to the fans, and the energy level may have been slightly low due to the high number of middle-aged people in attendance, though there were youngsters as well. During the Tony Joe White cover, “Elements and Things”, Larsson appropriately made people raise their hands in the air during the line, “reach up to the sky.” She also dedicated “High Class Woman” to the “beautiful Finnish ladies.” This started a streak of three songs from the debut that brought the set to a powerful end, culminating in the furious “Devil Man.” The audience didn’t have to clap too long, as Larsson returned in no more than a minute and played and sang the band’s latest video track, the soulful ballad, “I Felt a Change”, by herself. Her bandmates came back and two more new songs, “Rejection” and “Gone So Long”, brought the night to an end.

2016-11-17-02-blues-pills-rytmikorjaamo-cr-30Blues Pills had an extra touring member, Rickard Nygren, on keyboards and rhythm guitar. I hadn’t expected to see a five-piece lineup, but hiring another musician makes sense as there are plenty of keyboard parts on Lady in Gold, and the old songs didn’t suffer from the extra guitar either. The lack of backing choirs (or any backing vocals, for that matter) made the songs less layered compared to the album versions, but to be honest, I didn’t really miss them and it was cool to see a band play without any backing tracks for once. You could hear how tight Blues Pills had become after so many weeks of touring in Europe and the jams at the end of “Little Boy Preacher” and “High Class Woman” were ear candy. The light show was cool too, especially the blue lights on the mellow “Little Sun” and the red and white lights during “You Gotta Try.”

 

I can’t help wondering where Blues Pills would be without a luminous figure like Elin Larsson fronting them – she’s got the pipes, energy, and charisma. On the other hand, seeing guitarist Dorian Sorriaux deep in thought while soloing and watching André Kvarnström banging the heck out of his drums was entertaining too. Blues Pills played a great show and their music came to life on stage – if Death Hawks came across as more of a studio band, BP were the opposite, as I liked them even better live than on their albums. Blues rock is not just music for old farts, and these guys (and girl) proved it!

Blues Pills setlist:
1. Lady in Gold
2. Little Boy Preacher
3. Bad Talkers
4. Won’t Go Back
5. Black Smoke
6. Bliss
7. Little Sun
8. Elements and Things (Tony Joe White cover)
9. You Gotta Try
10. High Class Woman
11. Ain’t No Change
12. Devil Man

Encore:
13. I Felt a Change
14. Rejection
15. Gone So Long

2016-11-17-02-blues-pills-rytmikorjaamo-cr-7Photos: Charlotta Rajala

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