Online music magazine based in Copenhagen, Denmark

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September 2017

LIVE REVIEW: Tori Amos, DR Koncerthuset, 23.09.2017

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Tori Amos live DR Koncerthuset Copenhagen

People who come to see Tori Amos play in 2017 know her well. It is not only the type of environment where you hear people talking about how many times they’ve seen her before, but one where you hear talk of what time their flight got into Copenhagen that morning so that they could be at the show.

Concerts by veteran artists in venues the scale of DR’s Koncertsalen give the impression that it isn’t possible to be a casual fan. The people there don’t just want to hear the new album and the early stuff; it’s a space where the person shouting for the obscure B-side from the ‘90s has a good chance of being indulged.

Amos understands her role. She scurries to the front of the stage in sky-high heels to greet people before taking her place sandwiched between her grand piano and three keyboards neatly stacked on top of each other. It’s a rare occasion to see a pop concert in this room in the round, and Amos does her best to look to the audience at the back of the stage throughout the evening (though as she shifts between her instruments — often mid song — they always see her back).

It is not an especially young crowd; it’s clear that most of the audience was introduced to Amos in their teens and have continued to see her over the years. Some are now bringing their own children with them. They are reverentially quiet through almost every song, to the effect that the man next to us goes to great lengths to hold in a sneeze.

Tori Amos live DR Koncerthuset Copenhagen

This quiet is appreciated as Amos is alone on stage. Though the occasional backing track comes in, it’s mostly just her and her pianos. This means that her set is flexible, adjusted according to reported requests that came in earlier. It also means that songs often take on a completely different feeling from their recordings, whether it’s a different arrangement or a non-linear rendition. Lyrics are reorganized, repeated, changed completely. It doesn’t make for any easy singalong, but this isn’t a singalong kind of crowd; they’re more likely to be pleased to hear something different in a song they’ve heard played before.

As the tour is meant to promote her new album, Native Invaders, the single “Reindeer King” makes an appearance, but the set is an unpredictable mix of songs from throughout her career, including non-album tracks “Ruby Through the Looking Glass” and “Garlands” that everyone still seems to know.

Amos has always been one to include covers in her set. This tradition has taken on the form an interlude which features “Fake Muse” projected onto the organ in Koncertsalen, looking suspiciously like the Fox News logo. This evening’s selections are “Let It Be” and, following an electronica reinterpretation of the intro to her song “God,” “Running Up That Hill” (Amos was surely tipped off to its frequent radio play here). These are received with the same enthusiasm as the now decades-old “Crucify” and “Winter.”

The quiet reverence comes to an end with the encore, when those in the orchestra seats squash themselves up against the stage and clap along to the backing track of “Sorta Fairytale.”

They stay put through new single, “Cloud Riders,” which, with an oblique reference to “raisin girls,” sees Amos shifting her body towards the grand piano and playing “Cornflake Girl,” picking it up from its bridge. It’s impressively timed considering the backing tracks, but the pre-recorded backing vocals are a little too loud. While Amos’ live vocals leave something to be desired for the first time this evening, the energy and borderline violence with which she plays is exhilarating. It’s a strange note to end the night on, but the sentiment in the room is that everyone is satisfied with their Strange Little Girl.

Photos by James Hjertholm

LIVE REVIEW: EMA, Ideal Bar, 17.09.2017

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EMA live at Ideal Bar Copenhagen

If American music is meant to reflect American life, and there is something inherently fatalist about the latter, then EMA is an exemplary specimen of the former. The eponymous Erika M. Anderson opened her latest tour to a small but clearly dedicated crowd at Ideal Bar, working overtime to contextualize her music for an audience that may not understand the American condition in 2017 beyond the eye roll-inducing headlines about the President.

Anderson is accompanied by a drummer and a multi-instrumentalist who plays bass, synths, and violin, as well as having built his rig which includes a touchscreen that he’s using to live-manipulate her voice. It’s a set heavy on her new album, Exile in the Outer Ring, as well as 2011’s Past Life Martyred Saints, two albums wrapped up in political and feminine angst. Anderson’s frayed post-punk is delivered with a force that suggests she could destroy worlds, even as she makes flippant quips between songs. “Do you guys have big malls?” she asks when introducing “Breathylizer.” “No? You have Ikea and shit, right?”

She’s all over the map performance-wise: “Blood and Chalk” proves that she could sing ballads if she wanted to, while the acid-fried “Fire Water Air LSD” and “33 Nihilistic and Female” prove that she really doesn’t want to. Her presence is strong but not threatening, even if she sometimes swings her ponytail like a weapon.

The house music has come up but people are still applauding and the band returns. There is some debate about what to perform, before “7 Years” is begun with the caveat that they might fuck it up (they don’t). Anderson then launches into “Butterfly Knife,” stopping two lines in to turn up her guitar. She apologizes to her soundwoman over cheers from the crowd. In truth, without some massive wash of noise or feedback to soundtrack Anderson’s exit, the end of the set does feel a little abrupt. It’s about the only criticism you can come up with, though, for the artist who’s providing the realist soundtrack to whatever dystopia we’re currently living in.

LIVE REVIEW: Julie Byrne, Jazzhouse, 12.09.2017

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Julie Byrne live at Jazzhouse Copenhagen

No one expected a flashy set from Julie Byrne. It was anticipated from the beginning that the singer-songwriter would likely be alone on stage at Jazzhouse with her guitar. That she is joined by Taryn Miller of Your Friend on synths is already more activity than could be anticipated.

And yet Byrne is totally captivating. It’s not only that Jazzhouse is the perfect room for her voice; that it resonates over the packed audience is the most immediate selling point. It’s that Byrne herself is a striking presence. She’s swamped in a white robe that pools around her as she remains seated through her performance. She holds herself with a composure that emanates out from her being. Even while she’s singing, the room is quiet enough that you can clearly hear every time Miller hits a pedal.

The addition of Miller and their Korg synthesizer can’t be undervalued. There are a few moments of loud electronic noise washing over the room, but mostly the additional instrumentation is very understated, mimicking flutes or pedal steel in an intuitive, complementary way. Even just watching Miller as they shake their head enthusiastically while Bryne sings is such an endearing display of their rapport.

Miller helps to bring out a goofiness in Byrne that offsets some of her earnest New Age-y vibes. Bryne talks a lot about energies in the room and offering songs as prayers — if this had been a seated performance for the audience, I would have happily sat through a guided meditation with her. But then Byrne follows up the explanation that “Melting Grid” is about taking a risk at leaving a job for the sake of your spirit with a mad little “la la la” before singing the song. It’s a charming, off-script unpredictability that draws you in every bit as much as the songs.

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

LIVE REVIEW: LCD Soundsystem, Store Vega, 08.09.17

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LCD Soundsystem live in Copenhagen

It has been a topic of conversation for weeks, even months. LCD Soundsystem’s three night affair at Vega finally puts an end to one of the dullest summers in recent memory with an explosion of colour and disco-balls. Half an hour before the beginning of their Friday night set, those who attended the previous night’s concert are being eagerly quizzed about what songs to expect. The response is always the same: no matter what they play, expect one of the most fun shows you’ll see all year.

There’s a lot of fake outrage when a band reunites, a sense that they are desecrating their own past in order to satisfy their ego, wallet, or rapidly eroding sense of self. In the case of James Murphy and co, these concerns were laid to rest during their reunion tour last year, and the acclaim around their fourth album, American Dream, further cements the notion that they must just be physiologically incapable of producing anything bad.

You can see their painstaking attention to detail in almost any aspect of the evening. From the fact they begin at a chronometrically-precise 9pm, with drummer Pat Mahoney taking the beat from the end of Shit Robot’s DJ set, to the perfect oldies/newies balanced structure of setlist, the dedication LCD Soundsystem demonstrate in their live shows cannot fail but to engender fanatical devotion in the audience.

The enthusiasm starts on stage, in the way Murphy interacts with Mahoney during their percussion sessions, the general wine-swilling bonhomie of friends who have honed their enjoyment over two decades. With the kind of empathy for the audience that only comes from years of fandom, Murphy is almost apologetic for playing newer material, but he needn’t be, as a fair number are singing along word-for-word to new singles like Tonite and Call the Police. And realistically, any band who can dispense with their most well-known song ten minutes into their set has to be confident in the quantity and quality of their output.

Towards the end of the evening, the Friday after-work booze-up is starting to make its boisterous presence felt, with beer flying around the room during the breakdown of Dance Yrself Clean (the irony is not lost on me or my Tuborg-drenched shirt). But there is also some time for subtlety, a much appreciated addition being the presence of Gavin Russom at the centre of the stage, producing some fantastic drones from the middle of her fort of modular synths.

“We will now play three songs. Then we will go downstairs, come back, and play four more songs.” It sounds parodic but this is more or less how James Murphy speaks, with a refreshing absence of any bullshit. Sentimentality is something you’ll have to inject into the songs yourself, but as the boards creek under the weight of All My Friends, it looks like most people here don’t have much trouble with that.

LIVE REVIEW: Dylan LeBlanc, Ideal Bar, 31.08.2017

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Dylan LeBlanc live in Copenhagen

Everything about Dylan LeBlanc’s show at Ideal Bar feels crowded. The small room is sold out. His backing band — a second guitarist, bassist, drummer, plus keyboardist and cellist — barely fit on the stage. The endless push to the bar suggests a queue that never ends.

But the mood is light. It’s the first night of the tour and LeBlanc’s first time in Europe in five years. His repeated expressions of gratitude to the audience are so earnest they almost sound insincere (but the room is full of Americans, so they know he’s sincere). It’s an air that likely grew out of his early work, based mostly on acoustic guitars and a singer-songwriter aesthetic. While there is an interlude of LeBland alone on stage with just a guitar, the heart of the set is a bluesy Americana.

The songs often begin composed and measured, revealing complex and layered arrangements. At these points, it’s LeBlanc’s cellist who really stands out as the fact that alters the songs beyond a specific genre. Often the songs devolve into squalls of thrilling but increasingly predictable guitar feedback. At these points, you can feel how tight the space is; their movements are restricted beyond a point of natural inclination and on more than one occasion I fear Leblanc will get a guitar neck to the face. Songs’ endings stretch out beyond a sense of efficiency. It does reveal how tightly rehearsed the band is, but it also seems strange after a while that any one of those songs is not the end of the set.

At some point towards the end of the set, LeBlanc spills off of the low stage and plays in the protective ring the audience has formed around the stage for their bags. Leblanc is still clearly aware of the potential of hitting other people while he plays, though given a little more freedom. In a clearly well-rehearsed set, this still feels like a genuine expression of his energy, the way his constant thanks seem like a genuine expression of gratitude. And given the audience’s response,

it seems likely that when LeBlanc and his band eventually return to Copenhagen, it will be to a bigger stage.

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

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