There are certain concepts in life which are fixed and indisputable, almost forever. There are certain concerts at Tavastia which are set like a clockwork: HIM on every year´s last day for example, it just is and full stop. Slovenian Laibach is one of those elite regulars in Helsinki, it was like this and it will continue. Success guaranteed and proved every time. For a foreign act the tickets are relatively expensive, 25 €, although every year sells out within a couple of weeks before the date (usually end of November). Only this year the Slovenian collective just missed the EU summit in Helsinki by a few days: by the impression of their set´s content Laibach would have fit in perfectly at the discussion on European and world´s political situation. Maybe only if they would have left their military attire behind…But the Slovenian inspiration to German Rammstein is a band of principles, radical views and no compromises. In their spirit and means of conveyance I could equal them perhaps to American Ministry, but somehow I feel I can relate to Laibach a lot more, perhaps of their stronger attachment to Europe and its historical background. Usually those are not the things you would naturally think about on Friday night after a few drinks at a concert, which is supposed to be a form of social entertainment, but Laibach is not another band you will see for fun. I am not sure this even classifies as music in this context. It is not about heavy-rock-love-drama-fun, this is some serious fuel for the thought: open your eyes and see the world beyond all media, notice all people´s experiences, comprehend the past and admit to the history, consider our future - where is modern society progressing? Sadly a large percentage of modern youth reads a lot less, and so knows a lot less of their countries´ history. You need all this knowledge to fully comprehend what Laibach is about.
The band is multilingual, yet has very few compositions in their native mother tongue. Most songs are in equally fluent English and German, but also with verses in many other languages. The songs are comprised of countries´ hymns, anthems and/or national leaders´ speeches in respective country´s language.
What felt like a very long introduction, was a continuous play of various countries national hymns, vintage melodies and choirs, effective at first, a bit boring towards the end. There is no support act, but full house by 21.30 already – very good for Tavastia, I have not seen experienced this often.
The stage setup is simple: minimal drums, three sets of keyboards and a microphone for each performer. At the back wall – two white screens and projectors.
All the members except the singer come on stage, plain and serious, no greeting the audience, no nothing. The singer comes in and is met with even louder screams and applauses: no reaction. He is dressed in his classic outfit: military uniform of the 40s, with silver Laibach logo on the hat. He switches on the two projectors: one is set later than the other, so the image on left screen comes in earlier than the right screen, so you can follow both like a vintage slideshow. As a soundtrack, another hymn is played (I cannot be sure, but very likely, the band´s own national anthem this time), but no lyrics. Laibach takes the position and the first song takes off.
The set was done in 2 chapters.
The first set was made of Laibach´s latest release called Volk, which is a collection of interpretations of national anthems of those countries: “Germania”, “America”, “Anglia”, “Rossiya”, “Francia”, “Italia”, “España”, “Yisrā´el”, “Türkiye”, “Zhōnghuá”, “Nippon”, “Slovania”, “Vaticanae” and “NSK” (actual song titles). During each the screens projected flags, national symbols, writings, war images and other such relevant visuals of each country to go along the hymn. Excerpts shots of the latest video “Anglia” went on the screens for the corresponding track. All anthems started with official lyrics, sung by the choir. In the middle the singer added his own speaks, posing rhetorical questions to the country´s leader and nation (quote: “where is your victory now?”). There was a lot to follow and the volume of information was explosive: hymn after hymn, speech after speech, there was not a moment break.
I bow before the girl on keyboard (dressed so beautifully, like a an eastern folk doll), who at the same time was doing backing vocals and with her gentle flowing folklore vocals following the lyrics of each country´s anthem, let it be Russian, German or even Chinese. Very impressive work, although must have been a very hard task for her to memorize.
The second half was performed with a different stage set up, with changed keyboard-ess to keyboarder, with additional two female members and purely up-beat hard-industrial dance tracks, but the message just as persuasive and strong as before. The audience knew the songs and lyrics in all languages as well.
While the stage was re-arranged, the audience was strongly cheering for the encore. Clapping hands up in the air, stepping feet, rhythmic screams “Lai-bach” – the air was so hot, the audience so energized and eager: the singer kept his face straight and emotion-less during the entire set, but the when the lights were dark and he thought he was not so visible, I could notice a satisfied smile on his face. Neither were there any speeches in-between songs. The program was a straight forward set-list of all the planned songs, appropriate video sequence for illustration and that was it.
The stage was re-arranged in no time and the show went on. Among all band´s strongest pieces “Hell:Symmetry”, “Du bist unser”, “Tanz mit Laibach”, “Alle gegen Alle”, “Achtung!” and “Das Spiel ist aus” concluded the evening.
Two girls (a blonde and a brunette with two braids each) were a very eclectic addition to the lineup, dressed both in black, soldier-like knee-high pants, like the singer, high boots and purely in black, serious faces, very well done show, symmetrically and strictly. Equipped with directors (or drummers?) sticks they have actively directed the crowd throughout the entire second set. No dancing as such, but very well in rhythm with the band - very stylish and wholesome, the band with an image is always so aesthetic to watch. And although it was practically identical to their last year´s performance at Tavastia, it was not a redundant repetition, but a solid consistency of a band´s individuality and image.
The girls gesticulating as if directing the crowd – on one hand very strong attribute to a stylish band´s image, but on the other hand a clear illustration of Laibach´s perception of politics: higher authorities directing, as if chief masters, how the crowd/puppets act, move, breathe… Very vivid and memorable metaphor. The audience was wholesome, in perfect unison with the band.
The closing credits were like in a movie theatre. A lengthy list of credits, song titles, authors, all crew members, etc and so on, was followed with a medley of all Laibach songs that evening – a very interesting detail of the program and a stylish end to the evening. The band came back twice for a bow and a mute “thank you” and still, not a single emotion or sign of any relaxation.
For a Finnish stage definitely a big refreshment, a different kind of band and a very different kind of audience: vintage military pin-ups, a few of traditional Slovenian dresses and hair-dos, military and industrial goths, no simple band merchandise but actual outfits, almost no metallers and very few of the regulars from Helsinki – the audience took the concert as seriously as the band. All conscious and ´clean´ in a sense that the behavior, appearance, aesthetics and attitude from the people was like at an opera, where people go to listen rather than find an excuse to drink a lot and turn the screws loose. This was really a jewel of Finnish dark underground, truly a pleasure for the eyes, ears and soul.
The only disappointment was a short dance tracks set list, when the audience was completely at the band´s fingertips, whereas the beginning was a bit too lengthy.
Otherwise it was one among the rarely best evenings at Tavastia. Not only the quest band was flawless, but so was the DJ with an excellent selection of darkwave, electro, old-school and traditional goth tracks on the play list. So after the band´s departure, the floor remained quite crowded and continued dancing and actually partying, in the full sense of the word that does not only contain alcohol in it.