Located in central Helsinki, Finland, Kulttuuritalo is a small concert hall designed by Alvar Aalto,  seating  about 1300. The hall has excellent acoustics for rock gigs.
Lots of world stars have performed in this hall over the years: Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson Trio, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Dizzie Gillespie, B B King , Spencer Davis Group, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Traffic, Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Fleetwood Mac, Ten Years After, Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin, Steppenwolf, Mott the Hoople, Zappa, Weather Report, Rory Gallagher, Queen, Camel etc.

Blind Faith played at Kulttuuritalo on June 12th, 1969. There were two performances and the shows were only half-full as the summer vacations had just started and students and other young people were out of town. The first press releases were advertising the gigs by New Cream (Clapton, Baker, Winwood), but as the date came closer the name was changed to Blind Faith. 

Stevie Winwood had been to Finland and Kulttuuritalo with both Spencer Davis Group in 1967 and with Traffic in 1968 and Clapton and  Baker performed there with Cream November 13th 1967
Kulttuuritalo 12.06.1969
The first gig of Blind Faith's Scandinavian Tour 1969 
BF The first Blind Faith performance started at 8 pm and the second at 10 pm and the gigs were not sold out. Support group was called Babylon, a British 9-piece jazz-soul group with a horn section and a male and a female singer. The band was pretty powerful and their set included Spinning Wheel from Blood, Sweat and Tears. 
GB After a 15-minute break Blind Faith was announced and the band started straight away as the curtains were raised. The first song was Well All Right. I remember still the sight of Ginger Baker with red hair flying as he thundered through the opening bars.

Blind Faith's equipment was the same they used on their debut gig at  Hyde Park (London, UK) some days earlier: Two Marshall double-stacks on both sides of the drums. The PA-system was big by the 60’s standards. Blind Faith had five speaker-cabinets on both sides of the stage for vocals and drums. So the sound was good, Winwood’s vocals were clear and Baker's drums were the loudest instrument.

First performance setlist:

  1. Well All Right
  2. Sleeping In The Ground
  3. Sea Of Joy
  4. Under My Thumb
  5. Can’t Find My Way Home 
  6. Do What You Like
  7. Presence Of The Lord
  8. Had To Cry Today

Clapton stayed pretty close to his amps playing a sunburst Telecaster with a Stratocaster neck and during Sleeping in the Ground  even wandered behind  the stacks to get a cigarette to smoke during his tasteful blues solo. The strange thing about this concert was, that nobody knew what to expect. The Blind Faith album wasn't even ready at this pont and was released a couple of months later. During the spring only hints of the band's musical approach was revealed as Clapton told Melody Maker's Chris Welch, that this time  their music didn't depend so much on virtuosity. 
Under My Thumb by the Rolling Stones was the only familiar song in the set. They might have played Traffic’s Means To An End during the late gig of the night, but it wasn’t on the the first setlist.

People kept shouting for Clapton, but EC got into Cream-like playing only when he did a pretty aggressive solo on Had to Cry Today. It tells a lot of those bygone days, that three of the most celebrated musicians of that era were performing and none of them took the easy way out. It would have been so easy for Clapton to do a five-minute master-solo and get the audience on their feet or for Winwood to sing one of his former hits. I think these guys were ahead of their times, and tried to get away from the virtuoso-bullshit, that had hit the rock-scene after Cream and Hendrix changed the 60’s pop-world into a bluesrock-world.  


I'm still very glad and proud, that I was there to see this band do a perfect version of the song that for me is Blind Faith: Sea of Joy. A beautiful song, that was so much more powerful live, Clapton’s guitar and Stevie’s organ blended beautifully and Baker’s drumming was just unbelievable. Swing and power so effortless executed. And of course, Ric Grech had his moment with a violin solo.

SW Under My Thumb was a bit under rehearsed, but Can’t Find My Way Home was great with stylish improvisation from EC and Stevie. Do What You like was next, great solo from Stevie, Eric’s solo didn’t get off and Ric certainly wasn’t used to soloing in 5/4, but of course Ginger was and this was when we got our share of virtuosity. The audience greeted Ginger as the star of the show. Presence of the Lord was played with emphasis on the melody, that Winwood sang so beautifully. The band returned for the only loud song of the evening as Clapton cranked the volume up for Had to Cry Today. And then it was over. A gig, that was a great surprise for most people: No Cream songs, no Traffic songs, just beautiful music played in a very relaxed way. I still feel that this band should’ve stayed in small concert halls and developed their music further.
This was the first concert by a big group I ever saw. I was a fifteen year old teenager and it was only years after I realized, that I had witnessed these legendary musicians at a very delicate point of their careers. Going to gigs became a life long hobby for me and I've been following the careers of Clapton and Winwood for over 40 years. My last Clapton concert was in Zürich August 2008 and next one will be at the Royal Albert Hall May 2009.

I had a habit of listening to a tape of this concert on anniversaries of the gig. Of course I've lost the tape, but fortunately the bootlegs from Göteborg a few days later sound very close and have the same feeling. I still feel the Helsinki performance sounded better.....

Here's some pics from the gig. Click  on the thumbnails to see a bigger picture:

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