Not sure if it’s a good idea to type this gig report right now on the verge of getting seasick despite being stone cold sober, but let’s give it a try. The fact that I’m crossing the Baltic Sea on a stormy evening for another round of the bands described herein probably says a lot about how much I liked the show in Turku, right from the beginning of the first opening act.
I hadn’t known Ithilien in advance but my unfamiliarity with their material didn’t make their short set any less enjoyable. The amiable Belgians seemed to enjoy themselves, too, in spite of the constant threat of stepping on each other’s feet. Klubi is one of my favorite concert locations for the very reason of being small and cozy, but the monstrous size of Eluveitie’s drum riser, which occupied more than half of the fairly small stage, created more intimacy for the warm-up acts than they would probably have wished for. It did not exactly make things easier that both of them were six members strong and had each brought their own drumkit. Lack of space notwithstanding, Ithilien’s five-song set was spirited and energetic, the obvious crowd-pleaser being “Drinkin’ Song”.
The majestic “Innrás” intro was met with much applause, and the number of Skálmöld shirts in the audience indicated that quite a few listeners were here for the second band at least as much as for the headliner. As lead vocalist Björgvin mentioned after “Fenrisúlfur”, it was the Icelanders’ first visit to Finland, and I hope very much that they found the welcome warm enough to return before long. The venue was already packed, and the band’s sheer joy of playing was infectious.
Drummer Jón Geir and lead guitarist Þráinn in particular were smiling incessantly, and the rest of the gang seemed to be having a great time as well. So was the crowd, and towards the end of “Narfi” I noticed that I wasn’t the only one singing along. Speaking of singing, the surprise of the setlist was the inclusion of “Með fuglum”, an unlikely choice as its clean middle part is usually sung by keyboarder Gunnar Ben, who could not join his bandmates on this tour. But stand-in keyboardist Helga – sister to bassist Snæbjörn and guitarist Baldur – not only played but also sang his part. An octave higher, sure enough, but the ethereal purity of her voice perfectly fit the lyrics in this case. This song was followed by “Að vetri”, also from the latest release.
Despite Böbbi’s earlier announcement that the band would play stuff from all three albums, by the time the set reached the 40 minute mark, it had consisted exclusively of songs from Með vættum (2014) and Börn Loka (2012). But fortunately there were still ten minutes left, and there was no way Skálmöld would leave the stage without playing the almighty “Kvaðning”…
Unlike their traveling companions, Eluveitie had been to Finland before, but fairly seldom and certainly never to Turku. Four years ago I had seen them at Nummirock, but that gig had been a compact festival set with no particular extras. This time around we got the whole big production, and I’m not just referring to the aforementioned stage constructions. At least equally massive was the set itself, which spanned a full two hours without getting boring. The opening trio – “King”, “Nil” and “Thousandfold” – was fairly conventional, but the longer the show went on, the more treats were thrown in.
My favorite Eluveitie songs have always been the Gaulish ones, which are rather too scarce on the albums but constituted approximately a third of the live set. For good measure, the band also performed one tune in modern-day Swiss, namely “The Call Of The Mountain”, the regular album version of which is in English. The crowd took part in the yodeling on this one, although we probably didn’t sound very authentic. After “Brictom”, hurdy-gurdy player Anna was left alone on the stage to perform a downright magical “Scorched Earth”, halfway through which she was joined by Chrigel and his flute. The acoustic part of the set continued with a Celtic/Irish folk jam and the short “Carnutian Forest”, after which the full band returned for the instrumentals “Isara” and “Memento”. The remaining five songs of the main set were exclusively from Helvetios (2012), representing the heavier side of the band, before the evening closed with Eluveite’s traditional encore “Inis Mona”.
And just in case anyone wondered: no, I didn’t write all of the above on the boat. Because yes, I did get sick. And the return ferry was cancelled altogether, so I ended up spending an unplanned day in Tallinn. But I did get to see the show one more time, and it was abso-fukn-lutely worth it…