If you follow the Finnish music scene in any way, shape, or form, you’ve heard the name Sanni popping up a lot in the last few years. This 23-year-old Emma-nominated singer/songwriter has taken the country by storm with her clever lyrics and strong performances. Her self-titled third album was released earlier this year, topping the Finnish charts. Musicalypse covered Sanni once before at Pakkahuone earlier this year to rave reviews, though that was a Finnish perspective. As a foreigner, I wanted to check out her gig at The Circus on December 17th to see if someone who lacks a grasp on her lyrical prowess would still enjoy the show.
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Personally, I wouldn’t call myself a big fan of Sanni’s. I don’t have an issue with the music, and from what I’ve heard, her lyrics are indeed pretty clever. However, she does this electronic/autotune thing to her voice that kind of annoys me, depending on how heavily it’s used. I think the new album used it a little more tastefully than it has been in the past, so perhaps I may some day call myself a fan yet. Regardless, I was curious as to what it would be like live, as I don’t know how autotune translates to live music, if it’s even used at all.
This was only my second time at The Circus for a non-heavy show (the other being Elastinen a year or two back), and I know the metal crowd have a bit of an issue with the venue, so I was curious if a Sanni show would work a bit better in the dance club setting, the way Ela had. Back then, the doors had opened a heinous number of hours before the show started, so I had my fingers crossed that this show would at least start before midnight, as the doors only opened at 22:00. I was destined to be disappointed, as the doors opened over 30 minutes late, and when the clock struck midnight, she still wasn’t on stage.
The Circus had sold out at some point on the day of the show, if I understood correctly. I hate full venues, so I made my way up to the balcony to try and find a place where I could see the stage. Fortunately, I was successful. As it turned out, the blue-haired star didn’t hit the stage until 00:11. The show started with “Koti-ikävä”, as has been the standard throughout this SANNI Tour, but I was surprised to find that the show did not follow the regular tour set; I’ll get to that later. If I’m being honest, “Koti-ikävä” isn’t a great show-starter. It’s a popular song, sure, but it doesn’t quite have the massive gig kick-off energy that I crave first thing in a show. This song would’ve been better suited in the slot of track four or five, when the energy needs to die down a little.
Sanni herself proved to be as energetic as promised, running around wearing a big smile, and there was almost a sort of youthful innocence to her stage presence. Of course, the crowd sang along with her; at first I thought this singing was just pure enthusiasm for a hit song that would wear off after it ended, but I was wrong. While I can’t bemoan the crowd for their loudness, I was amazed to realize that they were singing so loudly that I genuinely had a hard time hearing Sanni herself for most of the show. This is the first time ever I left a gig thinking that the mix should have been considerably louder – my friends down in the crowd said they didn’t even suffer for the lack of earplugs, which says something. Regardless of the loudness though, she had the crowd eating from her hand the moment she stepped up to the mic. She didn’t talk nearly at all throughout the show, focusing more on the performance (and frankly, further interaction was not necessary).
I had noticed a single drum near the mic stand at the front of the stage and by the time the fourth song started (“Kakara ku Cara” if I recall correctly), I found out why. Sanni played the drum for a few seconds at the beginning of the song before continuing on her journey back and forth across the stage. While I appreciate that she plays a few different instruments, this one instance felt a little gimmicky. Every other time she played guitar, it felt like a welcome addition to the performance. This bit of drumming couldn’t have lasted more than a grand maximum of 30 seconds and I suspect could have been done by the actual drummer. It didn’t really add anything to the show.
A few songs in, she started up her Vain Elämää cover of Maija Vilkkumaa’s song, “Ei”, featuring none other than Maija Vilkkumaa herself. This brought a smile to my face, reminding me of the ELA-Show at Hartwall Areena, where Elastinen did a few of his own Vain Elämää songs with the original artists as guests. I didn’t watch the season that had Sanni in it, but it was cool nevertheless that Vilkkumaa was there. This also brought the hype levels up a bit, particularly when “Ku Kanye Kanyee” was bumped up from its encore slot to the middle of the show. Why might that be? Well, so that the ever-popular Finnish rapper, Cheek, could come out and perform his guest part from the album with her, of course! I was a little floored that he was there for this show, if I’m being honest. I’m not a fan, but it was cool that they didn’t have to play him on a backing track. He even stuck around for the song that followed, which was his own song, “Flexaa”, which features Sanni. If I have but one complaint about this show, it was this: “Oo se kun oot” – which features Paperi T on the album – should have been played before any of these songs, as Paperi T was not present to do his parts. Why? Because when you have guests appear on an album that actually show up for a show, it creates expectations. If they had played “Oo se kun oot” before any of these songs with the backing track, it wouldn’t have mattered. However, after a song with Maija Vilkkumaa and two with Cheek, when “Oo se kun oot” started, of course there was a deep breath of anticipation that ultimately resulted in a let-down when the artist was portrayed only in a backing track. At very least they could have had Cheek do it (unless he’s unwilling to perform a song that isn’t his). Or they should have left that track out altogether.
After Cheek left the stage, it was time for some acoustics, as she played two songs with her acoustic guitar, the former by herself, and if I recall correctly, the band returned to join her for the latter. I can never complain about an acoustic bit, especially when done well, as this was.
Now, if I’ve complained about the set a bit, I also need to say what they did right. First of all, “Vahinko” (the slower hit single from the 2016 album) was played towards the end, though it was neither the last song of the night, nor in the encore. She saved the absolute best choice (and her own electric guitar performance) for the last song pre-encore, which was “Sanni” – a cleverly-written break-up song that is both self-empowering and totally bitter at the same time, which I find rather amusing. It’s also one of her songs with the best energy, which was extended so that her band could be introduced and do some solos, before they quit the stage. It was a perfect closer to pump people full of energy for the encore, and very well done.
I also appreciated that she included the song, “Trampoliini”, in this set’s encore, as it hasn’t been played at the other shows, so I hadn’t been expecting to hear it. In one of the few speeches she made, she dedicated this song to her sister. I had always thought of this song in a relationship sense, but of course it makes sense that it could be about anyone, and it was a rather sweet moment. After “2080-luvulla” and the Hank Solo cover, “Söpö”, she then finally concluded the night with “Että mitähän vittua”, though we had made our way to the coat room to avoid the rush that was guaranteed to follow.
So, did Sanni live up to the hype for a non-Finn who isn’t hot on the vocal style? Honestly, yes. While I don’t think the set was optimized for the occasion and elements they had to offer, I do think she’s fun to watch and if my biggest issue with her is the autotune in her voice on the albums, she was much better live. She had a lot of energy and didn’t annoy me with her stage presence, so that was a plus (although the dubstep parts in “Dementia” were really lame live, according to the phantom). While it was cool to see her at a club, I suspect that her next tour will step up the capacity (the Jäähalli Black Box would probably suit her crowd very nicely, if they’re doing that for non-metal gigs), because it was too packed in there. I’d say that there’s a solid chance I might go back and see her again.
2. Prinsessoja & Astronautteja
4. Kakara ku Cara
5. Jos mä oon oikee
6. Ei (Maija Vilkkumaa)
8. Ku Kanye Kanyee (Cheek)
9. Flexaa (Cheek)
10. Me ei olla enää me
11. Levoton tyttö
12. Jos mä oon oikee
13. Oo se kun oot
21. Että mitähän vittua
Photos: Janne Puronen