If you look at the Finnish pop scene right now, you’re bound to come across more than a few female singers. While most of them have a somewhat traditional approach to their music, there’s one young woman who definitely stands out! Sanni, the 22-year-old singer/songwriter phenomenon seems to be one of those artists whose genre-crossing style you either love or you don’t, without much in between. But how about her gigs? When we saw an opportunity to catch her show at Pakkahuone, we had no choice but hop on it and bring you Lene L.’s take on what went down.
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Sanni’s career has gone upwards all the way from her first single, “Prinsessoja ja astronautteja,” back in 2013, but the award-winning hit off her sophomore album Lelu, called “2080-luvulla,” and participating in a popular Finnish celebrity reality show, Vain elämää, pretty much cemented her a permanent spot in the first class of Finnish pop artists. Along with her one-of-a-kind, heavily electronica -influenced pop sound, she’s known for energetic live shows and I personally had been anticipating a chance to catch one of these for quite a while. For someone who gets most of her live music fixes from small clubs with a variety of metal and rock bands, this was guaranteed to be something quite different – to be honest, I had mostly no clue what to expect, which made the idea even more appealing.
Upon arriving at Pakkahuone a good while before the gig, we found out the show was sold out, with a queue all the way across the plaza and bending around the corner. I had thrown in a guess that the crowd would mainly consist of women between 20 and 30 years, and it turned out that I had been right. Aside from the majority, there were also quite a few middle-aged couples, likely brought in by Sanni’s appearance in Vain elämää. I was quite curious about the number of male viewers in the audience – were they there with their girlfriends, or of their own volition? I admit, I have high hopes that these 20-something guys were finding Sanni’s music appealing on its own.
Without long intros or such, the show kicked off with blue lights, smoke, and the title track from Lelu. The crowd was loud and into it from the get-go and got even louder with the hit single that followed, “Pojat,” followed by title track from debut album, Sotke mut. Continuing with one of the biggest hits from the first full-length album, “Jos mä oon oikee,” Sanni took her spot playing the floor tom placed at the front of the stage; the first of several times. There’s an almost tangible blow of energy in everything this blue-haired girl does on stage, whether it’s playing guitar or floor tom, spurring on the audience to sing along (which she wouldn’t even need to do much – they would probably sing anyway), or just being all smiles… and the crowd catches on easily.
Regarding the venue, Pakkahuone seemed to suit Sanni quite nicely: the stage is big enough for her to dance around without the danger of running into any other band members, and the video screens that acted as a backdrop didn’t swallow the space entirely. Also considering the fact that she had sold out the venue of 1000-ish people, I doubt she’d fit into smaller venues these days, at least in Tampere. That’s perhaps a bit of shame in a way – it would be interesting to see her gigs in smaller, more intimate clubs. The huge hall with its wide photo-pit, however, didn’t stop her from connecting with the audience – or crowd surfing! – and after all, that’s what really counts. Pakkahuone is sometimes criticized for its acoustics too, but at least this time there were no notable distractions. And for someone who’s used to rock and metal shows, as mentioned, her whole live sound and videos on screens were quite rad at times – honestly, why can’t metal bands have slideshow videos of glazed donuts? Just once? I’m telling you, there was funfetti, and it was awesome.
After the first four tracks, it was time for a couple cover songs from Vain elämää, which I personally wasn’t too much into, but the crowd seems to love Sanni’s renditions of Maija Vilkkumaa’s, JVG’s, and Pave Maijanen’s hits. She brings her own flavor to all of those, so in that sense they have rightfully claimed their place in the set. According to my research before the show, the setlist in general was quite to what they had played earlier on this tour, with a few exceptions: “Hakuna Matata” had been left out and both “Mitä jos ne näkee” and “Sotke mut” were brought back after a couple shows’ break. Besides those, “Kokaiini” and “Isin tyttö” were both back in – neither of them are frequent pieces in her set, and judging by Sanni’s speeches right before each, both are very personal ones. It was too bad the audience didn’t really respond to them, but given the fact that they aren’t really the songs you’d think of first when putting together a Saturday night party playlist, it wasn’t that big of a surprise. Most of the crowd seemed to be heading out to do exactly that – party like there’s no tomorrow – so there isn’t much you can do about it, no matter how touching the songs would be in another context.
But when it comes to Sanni herself, regardless of whether you like her style of music or not, you have to love her on stage. She’s having the time of her life up there – dancing, jumping, joking around with her band, and completely enjoying herself and the audience. The way she’s having a hell of a party through all the songs is nothing short of awesome and you might just forget how heart-wrenching some of the lyrics are while watching her. Or the audience, for that matter! Never have I ever seen people dancing and singing a song about getting cheated on [“Että mitähän vittua”] with smiles that wide on their faces, not to mention Sanni’s “happy Easter!” remark after the holiday-apt rhyme about Tinder-pics and Kinder-eggs in the same song. Even though her speeches likely have gained some routine over time, she’s a lot like her lyrics: honest and heartfelt; you get the feeling she’s as real as the girl next to you, bringing all of her to the stage, take it or leave it.
And what people seem to love the most in Sanni’s music are those sometimes-brutally honest lyrics – she paints a relatable, realistic picture about the life of today’s 20-somethings, with all its bittersweet, embarrassing, and sometimes laughable shades. We’ve all made mistakes when drunk or in love and definitely miss our moms sometimes – admit it, you know it’s true. But the best part is the hopeful, even cheerful undertone that takes over in songs like “Supernova” – it’s all right to screw up, regret, and grieve over something, and it’s ok to be unfinished as long as you get up and go on when you fall. And remember to have fun – yes, we’re definitely down for that kind of positivity in our lives.
On that note, positive is a more than fitting adjective to describe the alternative take on our usual Saturday night gig. Most of my personal favorites in the set, gorgeous light, a packed venue with a ton of good energy – what more is there to wish for? So after all, the elements for a great gig are pretty much the same no matter what genre, and I am personally up for testing the theory on more occasions. I can definitely see myself going to see Sanni live again – hopefully off duty, because one can only contain the need to dance their heart out for so long, right?
Text/photos: Lene L. | Ed: Amy Wiseman