A storm’s brewing and the new wave of hard rock is becoming a tsunami that’s originating in Finland! Relative newcomers, Santa Cruz and Shiraz Lane, joined forces for the Vagabonds World Tour, which kicked off in the end of August at Lutakko in Jyväskylä and stopped at Tavastia in Helsinki on September 5th, 2015. Since we’re such big fans of the genre, we went out again to capture the event!
I can’t deny that I’m pretty excited about both of these bands. Though Santa Cruz is a few steps ahead, doing all sorts of cool stuff, like their slot on AXS TV’s Breaking Band series and putting out one of the best rock albums of the year, Shiraz Lane is hot on their heels after winning their own slots at Wacken, Tuska, and Hard Rock Rising in Toronto, Canada! Combining these two bands was guaranteed to produce an unforgettable night and we sure weren’t going to miss seeing some of the best rock since Guns N’ Roses and The Darkness !
The doors opened at 20:00 and the crowd had anyone you could imagine present (18+, of course). It’s fun to see these young guys inspiring people to get back in the rock spirit. We saw more jean vests and big hair than expected – it was like stepping back in time.
Shiraz Lane was scheduled to hit the stage already at 20:15. The intro track started playing shortly after, with a tape track I didn’t recognize saying that it’s up to you to be part of the problem or the solution. The show started strong, and the boys looked solid right from the get-go. As an opener playing their first-ever show at Tavastia, they only got a short set of six songs, but there was a lot to be learned about them in that time. Firstly, all the rumors about Ana Willman being a great drummer are true. He looked pretty confident in his element. Of course, you can still tell how new these guys are. There’s still a bit of nervousness, or perhaps reservation, but every band has that when they start out. In fact, I’d say they’re doing very well considering how new they are. At one point, the vocals cut out completely but Hannes Kett didn’t miss a beat, stop, or get confused. He kept right on going and they fixed it up right away. I think with a few more gigs under their belt these guys are going to be a phenomenal live band. Already their presence was pushing the limits of Tavastia’s small stage.
I’ve only heard the songs they have on Spotify, but they played all my favorites, like “Story to Tell” and “Mental Slavery.” Their playing was really solid throughout and there’s a lot of purity and love for music and their message in their show. Also, we’re excited to report that they announced their record deal during this gig, getting a very supportive cheer from the crowd! Their music has potential for some great sing-a-longs once their lyrics are more widely known. They have a lot of spirit and I can’t wait to see more of them in the future. Their set ended with “Out There Somewhere,” making the performance a resounding success overall.
The stage change took a bit longer than predicted and Santa Cruz was around 15 minutes late as a result. You might have recognized the intro tape as “He’s a Pirate” from Pirates of the Caribbean, and there was something wrong with the sound – something like the bass feeding back badly – because one of the sound guys (who were all painted up in corpse paint like The Crow or The Joker) had to come on stage and tweak something.
Cruz hit us hard n’ heavy right off the bat with “Bonafide Heroes,” and this is a band that has really blossomed since their inception, now complete with incredible confidence and strong presence. “Bonafide Heroes” is a great starting track, though I’m not the biggest fan of the way Archie Cruz (vocals, guitar) drops down the high notes. I’m never a fan of cheating the vocals during a live performance, you may have noticed, unless you actually can’t hit the notes anymore because you’re too old. My general rule is, if you’re going to tweak a song live, you should turn it up, not down.
Like Shiraz Lane, these guys have a lot of presence and could have really been on a bigger stage. It was a shame we missed the show at Nosturi a few months back, because they’ve got so much energy, it gets cramped on a stage as small as Tavastia’s, particularly in hard-hitting songs like “My Remedy.”
Unfortunately, the sound was still feeding back pretty badly for the first few tracks. The guy who looked like The Crow came out on stage at some point to tinker some more with it and it got better, but it was still loud enough to reverb a bit throughout the whole show. Otherwise the sound was pretty balanced, and I am a particularly large fan of their full-band backing vocals that really add some kick to the music.
They dedicated one of the songs off their first album (I think it was “Anthem for the Young N’ Reckless,” but don’t quote me on that) to anyone who said Santa Cruz was their favorite band in the world. I admit that I never got into the first album, but the songs work way better live, like “Relentless Renegades.” Tavastia’s not big enough to handle real pyrotechnics, but it was really cool to see the… I want to call them vertical fog canons? It was a nice touch to a place that can’t handle more without burning to the ground.
I had a good laugh when Archie Cruz started pouring Jack Daniels onto someone in the crowd, only to later find out it was our photographer, Eliza Rask, on the receiving end. They’re funny on stage in that way, making the whole performance somehow seem like a stadium band in a small venue. They’re totally on the train to bring rock n’ roll back, but let’s hope they keep the sex, but leave the drugs behind. I’d hate to see any talented kids like these guys end up like Hendrix, Joplin, or Morrison.
What was fun about this gig were all the little extras they gave us: Middy Cruz singing a short rendition of “The Passenger” by Iggy Pop with Archie Cruz taking over bass duties, and they gave a cover of “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John. Also, getting back to my complaint about “Bonafide Heroes,” if we talk about “Bye Bye Babylon” I have the opposite comment. In this track, we got some legit vocal creativity and that’s what I hope to see more of in the future!
The encore was exactly what we expected and more. They started it with “We are the Ones Who Fall” with some pretty kick-ass dual guitar soloing from Archie and Johnny Cruz. This was followed by “Another One Bites the Dust” (Queen) into “Bad Romance” (Lady Gaga) into “Join Me in Death” (HIM) into “Thunderstruck” (AC/DC) into “Wasted and Wounded,” which was a killer way to start a song. Also wow, Archie really nailed the Ville Valo vocals. Damn. It was so much fun that it could’ve been the final song of the night, but they still gave us “Aiming High” afterwards and Archie came out onto the barriers to engage with the crowd for a good chunk of it.
I have to say, I’m genuinely worried about this band. It sounds weird to put to words that a band is too talented and too successful, and they certainly deserve everything they’ve got so far, but man! These guys aren’t even going to be 25 for a few more years! These guys play like rock legends from the 80s/90s – their music is catchy and fun to listen to and their performances are so good that it’s nearly impossible not to rock out with all you’ve got. These guys are definitely on their way to bringing rock music back to the way it once was and I, for one, hope to see them continue going upward and onward (rather than falling into the drugs n’ booze pits of their predecessors). Guys, don’t do heroin!
Intro – He’s a Pirate by Hans Zimmer/Klaus Badelt
1. Bonafide Heroes
2. Velvet Rope
3. My Remedy
4. Anthem for the Young n’ Restless
5. Nothing Compares to You
6. Relentless Renegades
7. Let Me (Lay My Love on You)
8. Bye Bye Babylon
9. (66)6 Feet Under
10. The Passenger (Iggy Pop cover)
11. Let them Burn
12. Tiny Dance (Elton John cover)
13. Can You Feel the Rain
1. We are the Ones to Fall
2. Another One Bites the Dust / Bad Romance / Join Me in Death / Thunderstruck / Wasted and Wounded
3. Aiming High
Photos: Eliza Rask