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A BIG two days in Finland. Last time here on the Matter of Life and Death Tour in late '06 we played two nights at the Hartwell Arena and one in Tampere, all sold out to about 30,000 total. This time it's the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki and Risto Juvonen Stadium in Tampere. Last November, Helsinki sold out 43,000 even faster than Sweden, in a touch under 2 hours, and the stadium in Tempere, about 75 min drive from Helsinki, was quickly added and this also sold out well in advance, 29,000 tickets. I find this quite incredible. That's a total of 72,000 fans over the two shows, well over twice what we have ever played to before on tour here. A bit of Google research reveals the following:
Written for Virtual Finland by Arvo Peltonen, Professor,
Centre for Tourism Studies, University of Joensuu;
21 November 2002
Finland's population of five million has adapted to life under peripheral conditions in northern Europe. Finns make up 35% of the world's population north of latitude 60ºN. Finland is sparsely populated, with only 17 people per km². The Finns form a distinct linguistic and ethnic group; the original Finno-Ugric population bearing features from both eastern and western Europe. Finland is an interface between east and west. Today, the country is one of Europe's most prosperous.
Helsinki has approx 10% of the population, about half a million. So, as I noted at the time when we went on sale, pro rata population size to London, selling out the Olympic Stadium in less than 2 hours was the equivalent of selling out 14 Wembley Stadiums before breakfast nine months in advance. Quite astounding. Then to sell out so many in nearby Tampere was even more remarkable. That's about one in every seventy inhabitants of the whole country in total attending the two shows. Now that doesn't sound that much on paper but it's the equivalent of playing to almost a million people in two shows in the UK. Or about 5 million in the USA. Even in Sweden we will "only" play to about 87,000 on the two shows out of a population of about 9 million -- say one in a hundred. Does that indicate that Finland is the hottest metal country on the whole planet? They certainly have had their share of really good (and very heavy!!) metal bands coming out of there in recent years. Most people you meet appreciate rock, heavy rock and metal, much much more than pop. What a great country. We should all move here, although it is the same in Sweden and Norway. You hear metal everywhere, on the radio, in the shops, what a great change to the namby pamby shit assaulting our ears at every turn in the UK!!! They would probably bar many UK "artistes" from even entering the Nordic countries.
And so, after a refreshing day in the countryside the day before, I went down to the Hotel Lobby with a definite spring in my step looking forward to more fantastic shows today and tomorrow. But there he was........Nicko!! Or rather wasn't. Besides being a great metal country Sweden is also a great golf country (Jasper Parnervik's family were all at the show in Stockholm) and of course Nicko as usual has plenty of golf buddies, particularly here. Also you may have heard, accurately, that alcohol is also highly popular in Sweden. So you mix Nicko, golf, Swedish mates and alcohol and what do you get. A very fucked up drummer is the answer and I swear I have rarely seen him much worse in a morning, could hardly talk let alone walk. It took a lot for me not to include a pic I took for this diary (yes, Nick, a bank transfer of the funds will do nicely). None of the band were too alarmed though, I guess we have seen this a few times ( err..Chicago, for one), and they just said it was fine, he always plays well when he is like this!! I bloody hope so with a sold out stadium tonight!! We managed to get him on the plane and he was soon fast asleep. Short trip to Helsinki then got him to hotel and bed for a few hours. When he got the show he was coherent though a bit sheepish, but boy did he play. I thought it was one of our most exciting shows on the tour. He may have started a bit tentative but he was soon in full flow. If the truth be known he tends to play a bit on the fast side when in this state, but personally I like that, a bit of extra edge. The band is a bit split, some like the added chaos and edge, some like a more controlled power. Believe me a Maiden show is never the same night to night. There is often a small change in tempo. Many rock bands are probably the same. Besides something like this, when "extraneous circumstances" change the equation, a really great audience can also increase the excitement level on stage and this can increase the tempo. Some of our regular travelling fans have noted this. And who would want it the same every night anyway.
And this was some show. As I said before over half the huge audience in this magnificent stadium can never have seen us before, but you could not tell who they were. Everyone was fully into it from the word go, arms aloft and singing most every word. It was a glorious evening although I did pay Rob our lighting guy half wages as it was so light, even at the end of the show at about 10.30pm!! All in all a great experience and special show.
After... not bad and still light
The following day I had lunch with our promoter Thomas Johansson, EMA Telstar/Live Nation at a very fine Italian in the centre of Helsinki. I commented before on what a beautiful city I thought Stockholm was and in many ways Helsinki is similar. Few high rise buildings, wonderful city scape, squares and Gardens and the omnipresent Nordic water! I wish I had taken my camera along to take a few pics for you guys as it was again great weather and some picturesque views. You should all make a visit to the Nordics, some of the best scenery in the World and also some of the very best hosts and hostesses!
We sampled some excellent wines and lunch and then picked up our bags at the hotel and headed off for Tampere, a relatively short drive to the stadium there. Again I was taken aback by the audience reception of the band. Just as in Helsinki it was impossible to tell the new fans who had never been to one of our shows from the rest, everyone was equally engaged in the show. Well, perhaps some to the previous tour shirts would be a giveaway, but many by then were already wearing the Nordic tour shirt with Eddie as Thor!!! A Viking Eddie is most popular in these regions and I think Eddie must certainly have some Viking blood in him so very appropriate.
After the show we flew into Trondheim and Steve, Jan, Dave, Ian and myself got off to head to the hotel while Adrian went off to the wilderness to find himself some salmon and Bruce and Nicko took the plane on to the UK for a couple of days. Bruce of course has to pick up Bruce Air and a couple of hundred fans for the Trondheim trip. I will pick it up from here later and hopefully fill in those past gaps for you.