Wardruna – Helsinki, Finland 17.11.2019
Wardruna put on an unforgettable performance at Kulttuuritalo in Helsinki, Finland, and we were there to capture it.
This was a bit of a different gig, though the venue is no stranger to heavy music (which was surprising to find out), it was still a more upscale venue and event, with seating in front of the stage instead of a general admission area. It began with Einar and Eilif front and center playing the Lur. The sound alone was ethereal, the acoustics of the venue suited the music perfectly, but the shadows that were cast from the tall instruments became a spectacle of their own and added to the epicness of the moment.
The lighting and the shadows they cast really had an affect as it went along with the music. It helped transform the setting from a stuffy concert hall to more mystical place (though it did feel a bit confined once in a while when thinking of the footage of the gig that took place exactly one month before in Colorado at an outdoor amphitheater made of rock in the mountains) . Through out the gig, the shadows behind the musicians almost put on a separate show of their own. In a way, the concert was both visual and not. On one hand, you had the musicians on stage, with stunning lights and the shadows dancing behind them, but on the other hand, once you closed your eyes, the music hit you on a completely different, almost physical level it didn’t reach when there was the visual to distract. Some in the audience were obviously having a quite spiritual experience, not only dancing in their seat, swaying to the music but also putting their hands up or moving as if taking part in some inner ritual. In that sense, the seats did constrict from the experience, taking away the possibility to move, dance, or do whatever this kind of music might very well make someone want to do. Lindy danced while she sang and it really made you want to move with her. Through out the gig, you could see and hear the passion in Einar and Lindy’s voice. Specially when there was some improvisation and deviation from the way the recorded songs sounded. That’s always a nice touch in a normal gig, but specially for this kind of music those small changes really added to the feeling.
The audience was respectful, not many phones out recording, not much talking or inappropriate calls, though of course for the more well known songs there were a few shouts of excitement. There were moments you could feel or see a collective rise of emotion or intensity in the gig as people moved forward in their seats or had their heads down with their eyes closed. Before the last few songs, Einar broke the barrier that seemed to be there, putting the musicians almost on a different plane than us in the audience. He thanked the crowd and talked a bit about the music, as well as introduced the wolf Tihu that had been brought on stage briefly during “Völuspá”. Although the mood of the night was shifted once he started connecting with the audience, it didn’t detract at all, though I think it would have had a much different overall feel if they had finished the show without talking to the audience. Einar spoke about how his music is not meant to romanticize the past or try to be like vikings, but to take something from the past which still holds relevance in modern day, and do something new with it. For the last two songs, he stopped to explain them a bit and give insight to their meaning. “Helvegen” was introduced by explaining that there used to be songs for all sorts of occasions, and these old songs are mostly gone because there was no written culture, so now there can be new songs made in remembrance of the old ones, “Lets sing about death, shall we? When in Finland…” he joked, since “Helvegen” is about remembering the dead. For the last song“Snake Pit Poetry” he told the story of Ragnar Lothbrok, and referred to the relevance of the TV show Vikings his music (and himself) have appeared on. He joked that the meaning of “Lothbrok” is “furry pants” and someone from the audience cheered. “Well I guess someone likes furry pants” Einar replied, and tied it back to the idea that there really was a song for every occasion and even when sitting in a pit of snakes, poetry was written.
Personally, I want to see this show again. Though it was an amazing experience, and the venue’s acoustics were great, the lighting and shadows and overall vibe of the show was unique and incredibly touching… I think it would be a completely different experience in a different setting, which I hope to see in Savonlinna Opera Festival next summer. Unconfined by walls and chairs, under the sky, and hopefully in a better spot (the seat I had at the gig in Helsinki was off to the side and peaking through heads of other audience members as if witnessing some secret ritual hiding in bushes).
Rotlaust tre fell
Völuspá (Skaldic version)
Snake Pit Poetry (Skaldic Version)
Wardruna live are –
Einar “Kvitrafn” Selvik – vocals, all instruments, composer
Lindy Fay Hella – vocals, flute
Arne Sandvoll – backing vocals, percussion
HC Dalgaard – backing vocals, percussion, drums
Eilif Gundersen – horns, flutes
John Stenersen – moraharpa