Warmed by a lucid live dream: Palaye Royale live at Tavastia, Helsinki 04.03

Author John Wins - 9.3.2023

Another night in the mother of all venues in Finland, the legendary Tavastia. It was a cold night, which didn’t stop hundreds of fans to wait outside for a couple of hours before the doors were opened. It was also a special event for the North Americans of Palaye Royale, playing for the first time in the Finnish capital, and what a debut for the brothers: two sold-out nights!

The first day took place on Saturday March 4th, with two opening bands. Directly from Atlanta, USA, Starbenders brought a mix of glam rock with a bit of punk, adding a dark and introspective mood for the night, being complemented by the second band YONAKA from England, who added more intensity and emotion.

When the intro of the main show started to play, a few minutes after 21:15, a sea of cell phones appeared over the heads, which shows the strong connection that the band has with the new generation. With low lights and dissonant sounds, there’s a kind of trance in the air, which sounds perfect for what our eyes and hearts were going to witness the rest of the night.

Photo by AJ Johansson

“Nightmares” begins to take shape when Sebastian Danzig enters the stage spinning, which reminds of a young Andy McCoy for a few seconds, but what steals the thunder is the audience jumping as vocalist Remington Leith begins the vocal process of getting feelings out of his chest through his unique voice. The sequence of hits “No Love in LA” and “You’ll be Fine” shows that the band goes beyond its strong visual identity, presenting groove, intensity, energy and some incredible work by drummer Emerson Barrett and bassist Logan Baudéan (who has been playing as their live session musician).

And speaking of bass, Logan does a fundamental job for the band to sound cohesive live. On “Broken” this is evident, letting the song’s sentiments shine in tones of loneliness and hope through Remington. “Fucking With My Head” has the first insane moment of the night, when the vocalist coordinates the first “mosh pit”, which curiously must also be the first attempt of many fans present in the audience, seeing the smile on the sweaty face of each one after this.

Until then the backing tracks had not been so evident, but in “King of the Damned” they were. Despite this detail, what calls attention is the spectacular moment when Remington boards an inflatable boat and literally surfs through the audience and shoots with a water gun while balancing in front of fans who cannot hide their joy.

In addition to being excellent musicians with their respective instruments, the brothers also take turns playing the keyboard, with Leith being the first to play the instrument in the left corner of the stage. “Paranoid” also has a beautiful instrumental melody work by the hands of guitarist Sebastian. The sequence with “Oblivion” has some beautiful piano work too, this turn with younger brother Emerson on keys. The lighting work this time was presented by the lights of hundreds of smartphones, which makes the execution of this sound even more emotional. Something simple, but that shows why the brothers’ work is so well accepted, whether on records or shows around the world.

Although the more recent sounds are more associated with emo rock, the show also has more pop moments, such as “Dying in a Hot Tub” from the group’s second album.

“Punching Bag” closes the cycle of brothers on the keyboard, but also brings back recorded backing vocals, although it is not something so uncomfortable, it takes away a bit of the organic part of playing a live show, but what really disturbs the connection between audience and stage are the incessant “participations” of the band’s photographers/filmmakers on stage during the performance. It is understandable that artists record material for their social media, but it should be something more restrained or require a little more stealth skills from the professionals involved.

“Mr. Doctor Man” is a test of stamina, both for the band and the fans who jump to the beat of the song. Over red lights, there’s a very interesting tension in the air, again created by the intro. A voice filter adds extra charm to Remington’s vocals, who knows when he needs to accelerate and step on the brakes (the guy is insane from the first song until the end).

One of the most beautiful and mesmerizing moments of the night has as live soundtrack “Off With the Head” from the most recent album “Fever Dream” from 2022. With moments that reminds something more brit-pop, white balloons begin to color Tavastia, creating a ping-pong that brightens up and makes the night even more fun, which ends the first part of the setlist with a “rain” of shredded paper.

After a few minutes the four members return to the spotlight to bring introspection and madness with the classic “Lonely”. After a beautiful intro on the keyboard, Remington begins to show one of the moments expected by the fans: climbing the highest possible place in the venue. Strolling around the second floor of Tavastia and eliciting gasps from the fans watching him, the musician smiles alongside nearly 700 people.

The title track of the new album ends the night with a lot of energy delivered, band-audience connection and the feeling of accomplishment, all of this ending with another indoor “rain”, this time with silver paper.

It’s hard to realize when we’re watching an artist at their peak, because everything is moment, but the feeling looking all around, both on stage and in the audience is that we witness a band in the best moment of their career, leaving every drop of sweat with their best efforts and love for the music they make. Fans on that cold winter night will never forget the warmth provided by the art of the Palaye Royale. It might feel like it was a fever dream, but it was real.

Photo by AJ Johansson