Wigwam at Lutakko, Jyväskylä, 01.02.2003

  1. Heaven In A Modern World
  2. Answer To Life
  3. Friend From The Fields
  4. Absalom
  5. Bitesize
  6. Remains To Be Seen
  7. Eddie And The Boys
  8. Kite
  9. Bless Your Lucky Stars
  10. That's The Way
  11. Tombstone Valentine
  12. Do Or Die
  13. Nuclear Nightclub
  14. Colossus
  15. Bertha Come Back
    2. encore:
  16. Freddie Are You Ready
© Esa Heiskanen
Jim Pembroke at Lutakko "Listen pal, we are having a gig here..."
Line-up: Måns Groundstroem (bass), Jari Kettunen (drums), Esa Kotilainen (keyboards), Jim Pembroke (vocals, keyboards), Pekka Rechardt (guitar)
With: Tommy Eriksson (mixing), Mika Järvinen (lights), Tommi Heiskanen (photography)
See photos by Jarno Laitinen.
The "Wigwam 35 Years Birthday Party Tour" began in Finnish Lapland, above the Arctic Circle, in late January 2003. The two-day happening called "Tunturiblues" ("Mountain Blues") took place in the notorious tourist resort of Saariselkä, and featured three other bands who did play rhythm and blues, more or less. A somewhat curious sight was seen during Wigwam’s performances: middle aged couples trying to dance the traditional way - and a dance floor almost empty in the second night. A wrong band, in a wrong place. "The world’s best band needs the world’s best audience," a fan stated.

A much more familiar atmosphere prevailed in the Lutakko dance hall (a rock club actually) the next Saturday. The city of Jyväskylä, well-known for her sizable student population, is definitely a better fit for a band like Wigwam. There are at most ten small and large cities in Finland where Wigwam can play satisfactory gigs, that is, the university towns, as Esa Kotilainen, Wigwam’s keyboard player, said in a recent interview.

Unforeseen problems are always there, when we talk about Wigwam concerts. In Lapland, it was the 190 volt electricity, streaming from behind the border of nearby Russia - considerably less than the 220 volts that is standard in Finland. This caused troubles with instruments and the stage sound. Esa’s Moogs had to be retuned, for example. Before the Jyväskylä gig, in turn, Måns Groundstroem’s bass amplifier had got broken. He had to play with a small amplifier borrowed from a fellow musician Jussi Kinnunen.

Wigwam’s Jyväskylä set was similar to the second Saariselkä gig, a quite nice mix of old classics and tunes from the latest "Titans Wheel" album. However, the 35th anniversary tour has so far brought us only two "jubileum extras" that haven’t been played by Wigwam in the 2000s: the 1967 Blues Section classic "Answer To Life", and the 1970 album title track "Tombstone Valentine". The Jyväskylä audience called the band back to play a generous number of encores, although the standard closer "Grass For Blades" wasn’t heard. I guess this was due to a delayed schedule, since Lutakko’s closing time was approaching in a few minutes. As the night proceeded, Jim Pembroke kept standing up on his leather-clad legs while singing and playing - an obvious sign of risen enthusiasm.

Contrary to Saariselkä, a typical Wigwam crowd was seen in Lutakko, long-haired or grunge-bearded 20-50-year-old men, with a minor bunch of "Love Records girls". "A typical audience for this place," stated my sister Tiina, a Wig-gig debutant in her twenties. Not having heard much of Wigwam music from records either, she made several interesting comments during the gig, cited in the following.

Wigwam’s stage setting, with grey-headed elderly gentlemen standing or sitting in a semi-circle by their instruments, made Tiina grin with amusement. The vocalist’s place in the middle of the ring was empty, except for Rekku Rechardt’s occasional excursions in the ecstasy of guitar soloing. However, Tiina appreciated the uncompromising attitude of the band: they brought out what was essential in their case, the music.

As for music, Tiina paid attention to the multipart nature of many Wigwam songs: they changed, but "travelled on" in a natural way. She could detect a hint of the 1980s AOR ("Heaven In A Modern World"), reggae ("Eddie And The Boys", "Tombstone Valentine") and country music ("Nuclear Nightclub") out of the tunes, even a touch of jazz at times.

On "Do Or Die", Esa played a long, maybe the most adventurous Moog-solo of his present Wigwam-tenure. The upper register of the device brought out noisy, even ear-piercing sounds, although the overall volume was moderate in Jyväskylä. During the Moog solo, Tiina liked especially the phase when the rest of the band already threw in their part, but didn’t "return" to the song yet.

Many people wish Esa should have an even more prominent role in the Wigwam soundscape. As a newcomer, Tiina couldn’t see it this way, but thought it’s appropriate that Rekku has the principal control of the solo space with his rock guitar. One of the highlights of the concert, she said, was "Absalom", where the never-ending guitar pattern actually was the essence of the song, making it grow and grow: "You just observed it happening." Also, "Absalom"’s quirky time signature changes pleased her greatly. "Friend From The Field" with its "uh-huh uh-huh forever" was another big moment for her, as it was one of the few songs she knew beforehand.

Wigwam continues on gigging in Finland’s bigger towns. The highlight of the tour will be seen in Helsinki’s Tavastia Club, 18th and 19th February. Almost all of the surviving ex-Wigwam members have promised to get up on stage then.

- - Mikko Meriläinen