Tavastia, Helsinki 18.2.2020
A full house on a Tuesday night is not to be taken for granted if you happen to run a rock club, but Alcest managed to sell out Tavastia well in advance. I was pleased to find the house already fairly full during opener Kælan Mikla, who deserved the exposure and lived up to it. I had seen them several times on their Icelandic home turf around the time of their first release but not since 2017, and the trio proved to have progressed enormously since then. Not to mention that they have two more albums out by now, so almost the entire set was fresh to my ears. In addition, both light and sound were decisively better than on those earlier occasions – at one point Margrét had problems hearing her bass on stage, but it sure was present in the FOH mix all the time. Speaking of rhythm, using a glow stick to initiate the drum sampler at the beginning of the songs may sound like a corny hipsterism, but in the hands of vocalist Laufey the gesture seemed like the fleeting glimpse of a shamanic ritual brought into the 21st century. Like every other detail of the set, it flawlessly accentuated the mysterious shadow-and-light atmosphere of their music, fragile but powerful.
The middle act were also a trio but represented a quite different segment of the alternative metal spectum. Birds in Row are countrymen of the headliners and their apparent job was to offer some contrast to the more atmospheric and melodic alternatives before and after them. They clearly knew their trade and didn’t lack interesting riffs with a progressive touch, but without knowing the songs beforehand it turned out fo be difficult to get into them. They were without doubt the fastest and most brutal of the evening’s three bands, nevertheless I found them tiring rather than exciting. Since more tempting refreshments were available at the bar in the “lobby”, I decided to retreat there for a while and used the opportunity for some shopping at the well-assorted merch table.
Birds In Row
Alcest slowed down the pace but what they added instead was a wide range of dynamics, from calm and reflective to all-out ecstatic, all clad in dreamlike lightscapes. Less intimate perhaps than at Korjaamo a few years back, but the band just as effectively communicated the emotional depth of their music to the packed crowd in the larger venue. And they were well aware of the status of Tavastia; Neige rightfully called it “legendary”. 50 years in business, the first club of its kind in Helsinki and perhaps destined to be the last – HIM’s huge heartagram at the ceiling made me think mournfully of Nosturi, our other legendary local venue where said logo had hung for so many years and which had received the wrecking ball’s deadly kiss only a week before… Fortunately melancholy was not the only thing Alcest had to offer, much to the contrary the show was a downright uplifting experience and well constructed. Almost half of the set was from the excellent new release, Spiritual Instinct, but all albums except the first one were present and the ending with the ten-minute “Délivrance” from Shelter (2014) was downright triumphant.