Yesterday I was looking for something to do. Earlier that afternoon I ventured for the first time ever into a small local pub called the Karhu Ministeri where the tiered pricing of level 3 and 4 beers is quite a treat, all depending on the time of one’s arrival. While at the Karhu I strummed through the Helsinki Sanomat, hesari as it is known to the locals, and I noticed a small ad there about a free concert. Now I can’t quite recall if I saw the ad in hesari or in the Metro lehti, but that point is moot.

I noticed that Finnish singer Hanna Pakarinen was going to be at Pub Gaselli for a free show. I had nothing to do and an itch to get out of the apartment, thus, I ventured out towards downtown. First, catching the 7 tram on Mansku, getting out at Lasipalatsi, snapping photos of Posti and Sokos as they bathed in the setting sun, then pointing myself towards the most infamous of locales, Mummotunneli. Grandma Alley is the prime location on Aleksanterinkatu where 3 pubs meet in an alleyway. Always packed on weekends during the summer but at this time desolate.

Arriving at Pub Gaselli I quickly realized that the clientele was about 80% female with a gaggle of youngsters chirping away at a large table. The stage was prepared with a microphone, keyboards, and a guitar. I ordered a pint and stood at the end of the bar at the left bend. I took out my ancient Nokia e71 (of which I borrowed from a friend and never returned) from time to time to text the lady back and forth. She was unfortunately unable to join. I tweeted “lookin’ 4 something 2 do? Hanna Pakkarinen is about to hit the stage at Pub Gaselli Helsinki gratis.” I realized later that I butchered the girl’s last name with an added k and such a crime itself could be cause for extreme punishment in some countries, but not in Finland, not today. My bad. I apologize.

There was a dude who opened the show. He sang some Finnish folksy tunes along with his guitar and his flatcap. There were several mummos yapping loudly behind me so it was a bit difficult to follow along with the lyrics. Just before he hit the stage an ultra dark haired woman about 20 years senior ordered a beer and asked me where I was from. I told her Florida. Apparently she visited Miami Beach once. I tried to keep my mind off of that image as it was difficult to picture the lady patron as a young girl in a bikini in Florida. Luckily the dude with the guitar started his set and broke that thought.

After the crowdwarmer completed his task, he introduced Hanna Pakarinen who was sipping a glass of water standing next to her keyboardist dude and her small posse. Hanna and the keyboard/piano guy took their places on the small stage. They both seemed very happy to be there. Vocals and piano, an excellent combination of simplicity and style.

Hanna gave an excellent mini concert in front of a full house. She had a 45-minute set from 2010-2055. I’m unsure if she actually had a second set later in the evening as I left after the last song. She sang many tunes from her album, Paperimiehen tytär (Paper man’s daughter).

In all honesty, I was blown away. I’ve seen Hanna on TV during her rise on Finnish Idols and her subsequent mandatory pop album. But this back to roots style, this newly minted blues/ballad singer is now more real, earthy, more approachable. Not a corporate carbon copy.

Hanna is an old school spectacular vocalist who can sing the blues, love songs and soon-to-be-classic ballads with a passion that is contagious. Her entire body shakes as she gives it her all. She really is a pure body-in-motion singer whom Joe Cocker would be proud of. Seeing the emotions on the audience members’ faces, the tunes she sings can really touch the soul, heart and mind of most Finnish women. As a man, I found this quite insightful because trying to figure out women and relate with them has been a life long adventure for me.

For those who compare Hanna to Finland’s very own classic dame of vocals, Paula Koivuniemi, perhaps you have valid points. But Hanna is an artist unto herself. A new entity on the scene with a new style that many will be looking forward to following closely. It will be exciting to see what she does next.

Sometimes you gotta venture outside your comfort zone in order to experience something new. I woke up yesterday thinking that punk rock at Semifinal would be the thing for me to do. But I really got educated by Hanna Pakarinen last night. She is a true performer. Kiitos paljon, Hanna.