It is easy to forget that it has now been 10 years since Brainstorm graced the stages of the Eurovision Song Contest with My Star, such is the lasting and happy legacy that the debut act of Latvia provided. Despite the length of time, the band still manages to engage its international fan base and draw crowds based on that single event a decade ago.
Brainstorm’s most recent concerts in Tallinn and Helsinki celebrated this joyous occasion as well as promoting their latest album, a greatest hits collection from the years 2000-2010. Opening with a rousing rendition of recent single ‘Your Call’, the crowds anticipation and excitement grew for very much a ‘Best of’ set. Following a handful of other recent efforts incluing‘Brondza’ and their Rage Against the Machine’esque (at least in the opening) ‘Years and Seconds’ the band acknowledged perhaps the very reason most were in attendance with a rare English-language performance of ‘My Star’. Lead singer Renars Kaupers appeared in his element as joyous fans sang along and waved in unison during the song and the moments continued throughout the concert performance.
Brainstorms’ audiences on the nights consisted of a mix of Latvians, Estonians, Russians and Finns, as well as a smattering of people from further afield, Sweden, Poland, the United Kingdom and Australia. To satisfy the ground swell of cheers for certain songs and certain languages, the band played its set accordingly with a mix of songs performed in English, Russian and Latvian. Both nights contained different sets to keep the fans happy – more English in Tallinn – including older songs ‘Cinema’ and ‘Online’, and in Finland, more Russian to suit the very vocal core members of the audience.
Where the mix was best displayed was a performance on both nights of the song ‘Lonely Feeling to be Lonely’ (or ‘Rudens’ in its original Latvian), where each verse was seamlessly performed in a different language. This displayed not only a willingness to gratify its worldly audience but the true versatility of the band to appeal to a broader international base, surely a point in case for why the band deserves further recognition of its talents.
Best performances of the night included ‘Maybe’ and ‘The Kitten that did not want to give up’, both songs circa 2001-2003 . There is no doubt that the period all these songs heralded from demonstrated the bands greatest strengths, the clearly talented Janis Jubalts up the front on guitar, strong melodies and lyrics, and an energetic show from Kaupers. The appeal of the band lies in these elements, and their latest song ’Gara Diena’ (translated as ’Long Day’, now featuring on the greatest hits) sees a return to this style following their experimentation with producer Gustavo and a more electronically produced sound. The audience’s approval for such was clearly seen on both the nights from its cheers during and following these pieces, more so than any other song.
Rounding off the tightly compacted set lasting one and half hours were three fan favourites. Best remembered by Eurovision fans as the interval entertainment at the 2003 event held in Riga, ‘The Day Before Tomorrow’ performed live is a piece of pure-pop magic. Maris Mihelsons, stepping out from behind his keyboards, is a highlight, managing to rock out on the very un-rock-like piano accordion. Kaupers on the other hand, changes into lunatic front man, speeding up the delivery of the same song into, as he shouts, “crazy music”. This whips the crowd into a frenzy then just teeters over from this to overblown rock indulgence – one awkward moment in an otherwise perfect set.
‘Try’ (or ‘Lec’ in Latvian) plays an integral part of the encore raising the roof with its uplifting message. “Try. Leave the past behind”, Kaupers urges the audience throughout the songs chorus, all forgetting the previous songs indiscretions, raising our hands in the air. When ‘Weekends are not my happy days’ begins, something tells me this is the end. Or perhaps that’s because the lyrics say so. Nevertheless, it is a fitting ending, finishing on a song from the start of the decade of their greatest hits rather than the end. An air of sadness fills the room and the performance is suitably turned down a notch, more so in volume rather than in emotion. Despite this, it very much appeared for the fans that weekends are their happy days, courtesy of Brainstorm.