Upon arrival we were informed the opening act, arctic afro-beat posse Rhythm Funk Masters had just finished their set. Luckily they had left the crowd warmed up for DJ pair Infekto and Mr. Willy, who whipped up plate after plate of more or less eclectic funk gems and kept the floor moving. To break up the party it took the eagerly awaited Tuomo, who unwittingly started his set with some smooth balladry, and it took a few songs beofore he gained true command over the audience. Before setting out on the Motown path with his first solo outing, My Thing, Tuomo Prättälä has made his mark in noted jazz and nu-soul line-ups such as Huba, Q-continuum and Ilmiliekki Quartet. The lush orcherstrations audible on My Thing were replaced by a more stripped down sound, which permitted leeway the band was happy exploit for more protracted jams. The centre of attention was of course mr. Prättälä, seated firmly behind his Rhodes piano, which he stroked in a manner reminiscent of a young Stevie Wonder, singing with a silky smooth voice like a true gentleman. It was easy to see how he has managed to conquer the hearts and minds of the Finnish public.
Between the sets it was time for an excursion downstairs to the smaller Semifinal, but several meters before entering the club we hit a wall of human flesh. Inside we caught a glimpse of ”Finland's R. Kelly”, R'n'B prankster Stig Dogg brandishing what I hope was a microphone. Tonight his brand of humour was not quite appealing enough to merit squeezing through a crowd as dense as Rick James's cornrows.
Staying for the most part in more mellow territory Tuomo left my dancing feet calling out for some down and dirty deep funk, and that was just what The New Mastersounds delivered. With an overall sound resembling the funk stylings of The Meters bolstered by featured guest vocalist Corinne Greyson, the band wasted no time on stage. Seconds into their set they had turned the club floor into a steaming cauldron of twitching and swaying bodies, and while periodically taking it down a notch, they kept a steady, danceable groove going. The band played meticulously like a well oiled funk machine, but made it all seem so easy and organic, even downright gritty. Soulful vocals by the sassy miss Grayson softened things up in a couple of songs. Still, favouring endless funk jams the Mastersounds were more for the feet and less for the heart.