(c) 2006 Blues-Finland.com
Wentus Blues Band, Family Size

18 Sept 2006

Finnish Wentus Blues Band’s 20th Anniversary Concert was effortlessly extended to almost five hours. The gig was beautifully structured, though. A solid future can be predicted for this solid band.

Wentus Blues Band, which hails from Midwestern Finland, celebrated its 20-year career in Helsinki last week. The three-night show was held in a theatre originally built by Russian Czar Alexander II. The show, sweetened by various special guests, surely satisfied the Blues needs of performers and audience alike.

A show as full of content as the “Family Meeting” calls for a good structure – this is where WBB’s celebratory event succeeds. The slot of each guest performer was limited. Thus the audience enjoyed themselves and never felt uneasy – the feeling on the seats was as good as it apparently was on the stage.
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The decision to choose a theater for the venue was an adequately successful one. Sitting on an individual seat is not a usual thing for a blues fan, but that saves him or her from being bumped into by drunken fools. Like all theatre shows, also this one had a staging. The significance of towers of wooden crates and light balls in nets, however, is not readily comprehended. Maybe they just look nice?

The whole atmosphere was reminiscent of
Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Waltz” – a film that studied the giant concert given by The Band and superstar guests in San Francisco in 1976. A music documentary will be produced about Family Meeting as well. The director is Heikki Kossi, the same man who directed a film about Louisiana Red and WBB guitarist Niko Riippa some years ago.

Star Guests Mostly in Form
Seasoned veteran
Eddie Kirkland was probably the strongest special guest. The man is in his eighties (accurate age uncertain in true blues style) and he still runs the stage like a madman. He even got WBB singer Juho Kinaret doing somersets with him on the floor. The sight of two grown men going crazy on the floor of the valued 19th Century house was, err, something else.

Finns have once again reason to envy their western neighbors. Swedes
Sven Zetterberg and Clas Yngström possess the kind of charisma and genuine musical dedication that is badly missed by Finnish stars. Zetterberg, in addition to his own slot, did some nice harp solos in the final jam. Yngström will be seen soon again in Finland, as he is one of the stars of the Scandinavian Blues Party in Kokkola in early October.

Wentus Blues Band’s long-time singer
Antti Sjöberg, who left the band because of family reasons a couple of years ago, can also be classified as a guest performer now. He is a very good singer, but lacks the magnetism of a frontman. Sjöberg and Omar Dykes did a fabulous vocal duo on “Born on the Bayou”, a song made popular by John Fogerty some decades ago. Listening to the tandem of Sjöberg and Dykes, the CCR vocalist would most probably have shit his pants! No offence.

Louisiana Red, even labeled Niko Riippa’s stepfather, brought in some authentic Mississippi moments. The night’s strongest vocalist and showman
Barrence Whitfield and sideman Lazy Lester were nice acts, but merely tasty snacks in the multi-course dinner. Kim Wilson from The Fabulous Thunderbirds also did a mini-set in Thursday’s show.

Mick Taylor’s tame performance was a letdown, though. The ex-Rolling Stone and Bluesbreaker relied on uninspiring cover songs and was too restrained. A long version of Bob Dylan’s “Blind Willie McTell” returned to its main theme via “Layla” and “All Along the Watchtower”, but on the way lost all the nuances that The Band so beautifully reached in their divine version of the song on their 1993 album “Jericho”. Mick, however, deserves a good mark for his duet with Louisiana Red in the latter part of the concert.

Anything But Last Waltz

In their 20 years of music, Wentus Blues Band have developed a very steady sound – maybe it is steady in excess? Riippa, bassist
Robban Hagnäs and drummer Mikael Axelqvist are too easily happy with a basic performance. Pieces of more versatile instrumentalism were, on the other hand, given by guitarist “Hiding” Vikman and keyboardist Pekka Gröhn. Gröhn, like Sjöberg, left the band earlier but was happy to play along his pals once again at Family Meeting. Vocalist and percussionist Juho Kinaret is a suitably arrogant personality and an aspiring showman. A future as the leading figure of the band could be imagined for him, provided that he significantly improves as a singer.

The sound of Wentus Blues Band rarely requires two guitars. At Family Meeting there were at times even four of them. So it can be said that all irrationalities of a special concert were not avoided. At best, there were nine musicians on the stage at the same time. It is suitable for an occasion like this, but musically this kind of wide line-up has little to give.

Wentus Blues Band is a backing band, and it seems to enjoy its role as one. At any rate, it must be remembered that WBB is quite unique in its class in Finland. Let us hope for a long life for the WBB – the guys are still young and have a lot to give to the world of roots music.

Wentus Blues Band: Family Meeting, 14 – 16 September 2006, Helsinki

Juho Kinaret, Niko Riippa, Robban Hagnäs, Kim Vikman, Mikael Axelqvist

Special guests: Louisiana Red, Eddie Kirkland, Omar Dykes, Sven Zetterberg, Clas Yngström, Barrence Whitfield, Mick Taylor, Lazy Lester, Antti Sjöberg, Pekka Gröhn, Tore Berglund

Blues-Finland.com attended the show on Saturday.
Eddie Kirkland
In form: Kirkland
(c) eddiekirkland.com