Keeping alive a legend – Leavings-orkesteri in Tampere

Author Ossi Kumpula - 3.2.2024

Last Saturday I had the most wonderful reason to visit Tavara-asema, one of the newer houses of culture in Tampere, for the first time. Leavings-orkesteri, the continuation of what used to be Leevi and the Leavings until the death of frontman Gösta Sundqvist in 2003, performed there to a crowd of over one thousand people on the last Saturday night of January. The two-hour event saw the band, fronted by Timo Rautiainen, perform over twenty Leevi and the Leavings tunes, with a few related memories and stories sprinkled in between.

Arriving at the venue some twenty minutes prior to the allotted showtime, there was a long but thankfully fast moving queue at the doors. Once inside I quickly realized that “sold out as fuck” would be one of the most fitting phrases I could use to describe the atmosphere. The lower floor was chock-full of people, and on the balcony the traffic jam was even worse since the numerous tables and sofas ate up a lot of room from the already narrow and crowded aisles. Finding a suitable spot to enjoy the show turned out to be the most challenging aspect of the evening.

The concert began punctually at 21:00 as promised. At first there was definitely a bit of ice to be broken between the band and the audience, but it promised to be a long evening and very quickly the much familiar and well-beloved tunes from past decades won over the hearts, minds and bodies of those gathered. It’s a familiar cliche of modern rock bands to invite their audience to dance at their gigs, and what follows is usually some very uninspired swaying and hand-waving. But the crowd at the concert of Leavings-orkesteri needed no such overt prompts to begin heartily and properly dancing to the immensely nostalgic songs of Göstä Sundqvist. ‘Nostalgia’ was absolutely one of the defining words of the night as the median age in the audience had to be well above thirty at the very least.

Leevi and the Leavings never got to tour due to the convictions of their leader Göstä Sundqvist. The group disbanded for several years after his death, until in 2011 the remaining trio Risto Paananen, Juha Karastie and Niklas Nylund reunited to form Leavings-orkesteri. Last Saturday these three were joined onstage by an additional percussionist, a keyboardist and Timo Rautiainen as a vocalist. Despite the latter being a nominal frontman of the band, the true spokesperson onstage was Risto Paananen, who introduced most of the songs and shared a few related insights and memories. Rautiainen, on the other hand, recounted his less than favorable first impression of Leevi and the Leavings, and how amazing it was to sing for the band several decades later. Leavings-orkesteri has recruited a number of singers to front their band over the years, including Jarkko Martikainen, Siiri Nordin, Jouni Hynynen, and now Timo Rautiainen. They’ve all done a decent job, and frankly, sometimes it doesn’t matter so much who the singer is, as long as the audience get to spend an evening singing their favorite songs.

Despite performing music from several decades ago, the club shows of Leavings-orkesteri have sold to near or full capacity at most venues, which speaks to the sway the songs of Gösta Sundqvist still hold over people. Even though Sundqvist didn’t wish for his songs to be played live during his lifetime, the fact that his bandmates keep on going and people still turn up by the thousands to hear his tunes represents a worthy legacy for the man.

Setlist can be found here.