MÅNS ZELMERLOW – The Circus, Helsinki, 17.10.2015

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Europe found a new sweetheart when Sweden’s 2015 Eurovision Song Contest representative, Måns Zelmerlöw, won in May with his upbeat and catchy song, “Heroes.” After the competition, Zelmerlöw has been busy: he released his sixth album, Perfectly Damaged in June and starting in September took over Europe with The Heroes European Tour. Essi decided to take a chance on him and find out if the newest Eurovision-winner would be able to melt her metal heart with some pop tunes. She arrived at The Circus in Helsinki on October 17th, 2015, to see and feel the magic of Eurovision coming alive.

Even though Måns Zelmerlöw is nowadays probably mostly known as this year’s Eurovision winner, that isn’t the whole story. He has been active since 2005 and has released six studio albums, two of which are Christmas albums. This means that the guy has something else to offer on stage other than cover songs and the winning song everyone knows as the cherry on the top.

A few days before the gig, I gave Zelmerlöw’s newest album, Perfectly Damaged, a go and boy was I surprised. Let’s just say “Heroes” is a good song but luckily it’s not the best one on the album. After acknowledging that Perfectly Damaged as a nice pop album that was able to hold my attention from beginning to end, my expectations for the night’s gig got higher.

The Circus was perhaps surprisingly packed when I arrived sometime before nine. The crowd had a strong female majority and was clearly ready for an evening filled with dancing and singing along. As a venue, The Circus works well with bigger artists and bands. It does not have the nostalgic feeling like Nosturi or Tavastia but otherwise it’s a very pleasant environment for any kind of music. The area in front of the stage is wide, allowing room for plenty of people to get closer to the stage instead of being squeezed into a tiny spot between the bar and mixing table, which is a problem with some venues.

The evening got a proper kick-start when the supporting act Krista Siegfrids (known outside of Finland as the Eurovision representative in 2013) took the stage and started performing her rock-pop songs. Siegfrids is one of those artists who gives her all on stage and is just bursting with pure energy. Able to get the crowd moving and singing along, she was the perfect choice for warming up the stage for the evening’s main act. I have to admit that I’m not familiar with Siegfrids songs other than “Marry Me” (the Eurovision song), but still I found myself sort of singing along to the choruses and waiving my hands to the songs.

If there was one thing bothering me with Siegfried’s performance, it was the two dancers. There’s no complaint regarding their skill, but perhaps the stage was a bit too small for both the dancers and Siegrfrieds to dance at the same time. Also, Siegfrieds’ own performance and stage presence would have been more than enough – after all, The Circus is still a club venue. In the end though, it was delightful to see her pull off a nice show that got people moving and getting ready for the main star.

No matter how far back you were standing, you could tell from the screaming when it was time for Måns Zelmerlöw hit the stage. If one Swede can cause this much noise, I can only imagine what it would be like in a 1D -concert. I humbly and gladly admit that I was blown away from the very first moments of Zelmerlöw’s performance. Having two big screens behind him and the band combined with successful stage lights, it felt as if he had brought the feeling of a big arena gig into a small club.

I assumed that most of the crowd would be there only to see Zelmerlöw and hear his winning song, but I was proved wrong from the very beginning. People around me were dancing and singing along to every song on the setlist, whether it was new material or older songs like the ones from his first album Stand By For….

Zelmerlöw was mostly focusing on the material from his aforementioned new album, performing songs like “Someday,” “Hearts Collide,” and his newest single, “Should’ve Gone Home” (warning: it’ll get stuck in your head for a week). From the older material, the song “Cara Mia” was a particular inspiration for the audience to take part in the chorus and was one of those moments you could really see Zelmerlöw being overwhelmed by the situation.

One of the highlights of the gig was when Zelmerlöw announced that during this tour, they decided to perform one local song in every gig. In Finland it was “In the Shadows” by The Rasmus, a song that got a great reception back in 2003 both in Finland and abroad. Needless to say, once again the audience knew the tune and the lyrics, proving that Zelmerlöw had made a top-notch choice. Also it was delightful to see that Zelmerlöw could pull of a rock song, making it sound like his own while still staying true to the soul of the song.

Zelmerlöw had saved his biggest hit for the encore. Seeing the familiar animation on the screens and Zelmerlöw’s choreography during “Heroes” made me feel like it was the Eurovision Song Contest again, but this time I was right there, at the event! Yes, I knew the lyrics and yes, I sang and danced along. It was fabulous!

Talking just about Zelmerlöw himself would be ignorant, because the band performing with him, Zappanone, played a crucial part in creating the atmosphere and making sure the songs went smoothly and energetically. The band members did not just stand in the background, but moved, laughed, made contact with the audience, and seemed to enjoy performing. Even though the tour posters had only Zelmerlöw’s face and name on them, a big round of applause is owed to the band as well!

The feeling after the gig was euphoric. The combination of the enthusiastic audience, perfect-sized venue, and Zelmerlöw’s and the band’s stage presence made the night at The Circus one I won’t easily forget. As someone who is usually found moshing and shouting, it was refreshing to enjoy a different kind of live music in a different kind of atmosphere. The journey outside my comfort zone was successful!

Zelmerlöw has still a few gigs left on the 2015 Heroes European Tour. It will be interesting to see whether he can establish his success in Europe or if his music career will continue only within Sweden’s borders after the next Eurovision winner is chosen next May. There might not be an Abba-like international success ahead for Måns, but if he keeps up with the material he has released thus far, this might not be the last time Finland hears from him. As for myself, I would not mind seeing Zelmerlöw on stage again in the future.

Text: Essi Nummi | Ed: Amy Wiseman

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