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LIVE REVIEW: Grouper + Coby Sey, Alice, 24.10.2018

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Liz Harris, known to most as Grouper, inhabits a ghostly world somewhere between ambient and 4AD-influenced dream pop. With ten albums to her name and collaborations with everyone from Xiu Xiu, Lawrence English and the Bug, it is not so surprising that, for all her music’s understatement, it is able to command enough of a crowd for two back-to-back shows at Alice.

This is also partly due to the fact that the concert is a seated one, where the audience can lean back, eyes closed, letting the reverb wash over them. The evening is opened by Londoner Coby Sey, a shadowy producer in the vein of Dean Blunt, mixing noise, ambient and hiphop. He first came to my attention thanks to his entry in the Whities series, a minimalistic set of tracks full of references to London public transport. “All Change” tonight has a more confrontational air, underlined by the noisy end to his hour long set.

With eyes closed its easy to fall into the hypnotic spell of Grouper, but it is worth from time to time to observe her setup, surrounded as she is by a myriad of effects, samplers, guitar and piano. Her signature sound tends to fade the distinctions between these instruments. What does stand out is her ability to mix together plaintive choral chants from a sampler into her live playing, producing some spine-tingling moments.

In the wash of it all it can be hard to pick out specific tracks, although “Alien Observer” must by now be counted as an incredibly dreamy banger, with an incredibly simple but unforgettable cascading piano line.

LIVE REVIEW: The Coathangers, Stengade, 25.10.2018

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The Coathangers live at Stengade, Copenhagen

A good punk show is always just a little bit shambolic, and what makes Atlanta punk trio the Coathangers great performers is how neatly they work just the right amount of chaos into their set. There’s a damaged high hat and cymbal that gets intentionally knocked over mid song and a guitar strap that just gives out while Julia Kugel sings on with determination.

But the Coathangers have more than a decade under the belts of their coordinating, customized jumpsuits, and it shows. Because even though their set is a non-stop onslaught of garagy crunch, there is a subtle pacing to it all. It’s in the balance between the songs that Kugel sings lead on and what drummer Stephanie Luke sings — that is to say, between Kugel’s pliable yops, squeaks, and whispers, and Luke’s raspy growl.

Holding everything together in her own quiet way is bassist Meredith Franco, who sticks to a quiet corner of the stage, offering occasional backing vocals to her bandmates’ wails, shrieks, and head bangs.

To underscore the pacing of the chaos, the last few songs of the set mix things up with Franco and Kugel taking turns on drums and Luke trying out guitar and just being a vocalist. Things quickly get messy, with everyone falling all over each other, grabbing each other, and Franco getting lifted off her feet and twirled around as the trio collapse to the stage in a fit of laughter.

“Rock and roll is just for fun,” says Luke. “For 45 minutes we can forget about how shitty everything is.”

And we did.

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh.

LIVE REVIEW: David Eugene Edwards & Alexander Hacke, Bremen Teater, 24.10.2018

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Hacke-eugene-edwards

It is a quiet Wednesday evening in Copenhagen, but most people that has showed up for tonights venue at Bremen Teater seems to know that soon this venue will be anything but quiet. Much can be said about the difference in background and musical style of the two musical characters who are about to show, but they do have one thing in common: They play insistently, consistently and uncompromisingly loud and has done so for decades!

A bell rings, telling the audience that the show is about to begin and the audience, mainly consisting of people halfway through life, calmly get seated in the comfortable cinema chairs while a drone-like suspense music is playing. The two performers of the evening enters the stage. David Eugene Edwards dressed in his habitual western outfit while Alexander Hacke has chosen to wear a black hat, motorcycle jacket, shining red shirt and platform Doc Martens shoes. Both wearing shades of a considerable size.

Although Alexander Hacke, bass player, composer and leading member of legendary Einstürzende Neubauten is long established as one of the grand old men of loud intellectual noise, it is David Eugene Edwards, the preaching frontman of Sixteen Horsepower, who is given the primary focus this evening. Chanting, singing, shouting and gesturing through his mythical and shamanistic verses and rituals while leaving Hacke hoveringer over his chaos pad and midi controlled noise.

The collaboration with Hacke is a refreshing new approach to the intense world of pain, religion, faith and salvation that David Eugene Edwards is known to present on his vintage instruments without the slightest touch of irony.

At this night it almost seemed as if the duo introduced a bit of humor. Hacke’s outfit and operation of his electronic devices made him look like a strange mix of a German techno DJ and an old grumpy guy from The Muppet Show. David Eugene Edwards was clogging while playing and for a few seconds almost moon walking sideways towards Hacke, while also Hacke at the very end of the show was lifting his face towards the audience, presenting a few physical moves that resembled a sort of dance.

Edwards has used plenty of effects and samples in both Sixteen Horsepower and in Wovenhand, but the addition of Hacke’s analogue harsh synth sounds and techno beats was somewhat unexpected. Many before has combined spiritual and native music with modern electronic beats and sounds, Eno and Byrne’s ’My Life In The Bush of Ghosts’ from the same year as Hacke’s very first appearance with Einstürzende Neubauten comes to mind. But it is rare to experience this done with an intensity and feeling of authenticity such as in the hands of Edwards and Hacke.

Text: Ronald Laurits Jensen. Photos: Morten Aagaard Krogh

 

 

LIVE REVIEW: The Necks, Christians Kirke (Alice), 19.10.18

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Photos by Victor Yakimov

Thirty years of playing together and 16 albums to their name, there are a few things you can comfortably expect from the Necks: each of their records will drastically differ from the previous one, they will elicit both fanatical devotion and uncomprehending boredom, and their live sets will always be magical. The Australian three-piece–consisting of Chris Abrahams (piano), Lloyd Swanton (double bass) and Tony Buck (drums)–on paper sounds like fairly traditional jazz trio, but they are further from this than any newcomer could imagine. Instead of solos, complicated time signatures or key changes, we have slowly developing repetitions that build on each other, closer to ambient or contemporary classical than to Coltrane.

After seeing the Necks play in the intimate Brorsons Kirke last year, Christians Kirke offers a markedly more theatrical setting, with its marble altarpiece, glass chandeliers and wooden galleries trimmed in gold.  The large bass amp sits immediately in front of the altar, but the spectacular quality of the setting belies the slow revelatory patience of the band. As Swanton tunes his bass the other two sit calmly in front of their instruments, eyes closed, waiting to find out who will make the first move tonight.

Once you know to expect it, the beginning and end of the Necks’ sets (they usually do two of around 45 minutes each, with an interval) become incredibly charged moments, and tonight it is Abrahams who stirs first, with some simple, searching piano chords. Swanton picks it up and distills this into a simple two chord repetition, a quiet but insistent hi hat dropping in from Buck.

The hypnotism that emerges from this makes the Necks a hard band to write about, the feeling lingers but the details are hard to pick out. This in fact is a quality that can emerge in the very moment of listening to them, and can in fact produce the opposite, sonic mirages. There are many times when, in the speed and intricacy of the piano arpeggios, I start to hear a single repeated note that sounds at first like the bass, only to see that Swanton is playing something completely different, or find myself hearing completely different instruments, saxophones or violins.

On this night the biggest surprise of that nature is produced by Buck, at the end of their second set. Just as the piano and bass begin to simmer down to a single repeated note, an astounding, monstrous chords emerges out of nothing: a small cymbal being dragged against the skin of the floor tom.

 

LIVE REVIEW: Spain, Loppen, 07.10.2018

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Josh Haden and Petra Handen playing live with Spain at Loppen, Copenhagen

It doesn’t seem to be the usual crowd at Loppen this Sunday night. It’s true that LA band Spain, led by Josh Haden, are hardly a raucous act, and it’s clear that the audience know exactly what they’ve come for; people have dragged chairs into neat rows in the middle of the floor and are comfortably settled in by the time the opening act has ended.

From the first notes of opener “Ten Nights” — well almost; some feedback disrupts Haden mid verse and causes him to chuckle — it’s obvious that getting comfortable is a good idea. With as many downtempo, gentle songs as Spain have, a very calm, relaxed atmosphere descends on the room.

There is also a strong element of the audience wanting to live out a jazz club fantasy. Local jazz musicians have joined in, enriching the songs with brass instruments. And while a song like “Tangerine” teeters on the verge of becoming a jam session (with the audience readily applauding after every solo, no matter how understated), things stay organized and civilized.

Civilized does go out the window when the little conversation Haden has for the audience is about the US Supreme Court pick: “That Kavanaugh sure is an asshole,” he stated. This led to him working through his feelings about not feeling American given current events — which might have only been relatable to the two American at a table near the coat check but was appreciated all the same — and introducing “I’m Still Free,” a song he wrote nine years ago with the same sentiment.

Its impassioned delivery makes it a highlight of the evening, matched only for the encore “Spiritual.” And though repeatedly singing “Jesus, I don’t want to die alone” might be considered a bit of a downer, the brass players have returned to add more weight to the closing songs and Petra  Haden’s wordless vocals bring the actual spiritual heft. Grim lyrics or no, the arrangements have made this evening an especially soothing end to the weekend, regardless of any personal turmoil Haden himself might be feeling.

LIVE REVIEW: Bombino, Alice, 31.08.2018

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Bombino

Bombino is the Jimi Hendrix of the desert. That’s what the Roskilde Festival programme said in 2013, that’s what he proved that year on the Odeon stage and that’s what he is proving once again in a sold out Alice.
Bombino, or Oumara Moctar, was born sometime around 1980 in Tidene close to Agadez, Niger. He belongs to the Ifoghas, one of the nomadic tribes of the Sahara known as the Tuaregs. As a young boy he picked up a guitar and taught himself to play play by listening to cassettes with Jimi Hendrix and Dire Straits – much like Jimi Hendrix learned to master his instrument by listening to blues on the radio.
Bombino starts his set at Alice with three songs on an acoustic guitar. For the fourth song he changes for an electric guitar, and the drummer, who until then has been playing a traditional African (I guess) drum, takes his place behind the drum kit. And from then on there is no way back. For the next hour and half Bombino and his brilliant band blow Alice away, and even though Bombino doesn’t really say much – the bassist is quite talkative, thbombinoough – the band even manages to get the audience to sing a long. Since its unlikely that anybody in the crowd have any idea about what they are singing it turns out as a rather bizarre, but uplifting choir that interprets his lyrics song in Tamasheq to something like “uhmm-mæh-uhmm”. Its seems like everyone in the room are enjoying themselves.
Something has to be said about the way Bombino plays his guitar. His style is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. He picks mainly with his thumb and index finger, much like many folk guitarists, but there is something about the way he touches it. To me it looks like he has the gain turned all the way up, so that that the slightest touch can be heard, which makes the guitar harder to play, every mistake will be blown out of proportions, but also opens up for a lot of additional notes and sounds. Whatever he does it is endlessly fascinating to watch his long fingers move up and the fretboard of the Cort G280DX JSS guitar (which is worth mentioning because it is not at all a fancy guitar).
In 1976 Sex Pistols played a gig in Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester. There were not a lot of people, but many of those who were there went a did something incredible, and the gig acted as a catalyst for the formation of bands like the Smiths and Joy Division. If a few young musicians were to be found among the audience as Bombino brought the desert to Alice, they would likely go home and try to figure out how he could play the way he did, do something amazing and name the show at Alice as a turning point in their approach to their instrument.

LIVE REVIEW: Franz Ferdinand, Store Vega, 01.09.2018

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Franz Ferdinand live at Vega Copenhagen

Franz Ferdinand are the art art rockers with the hits. Over the years, they’ve held their ground on the indie rock charts and on the festival circuit, and now 15 years after they first said they wanted you to take them out, they’re finding ways to evolve the keep playing the hits.

Their show at Store Vega is the first time their new line-up has come to the city, with a new guitarist and synths now a permanent rather than occasional part of their performance. It reflects the synth pop direction their music has been moving in over the last few albums, phasing out their straight post-punk crunch. The new line-up has also allowed singer Alex Kapranos to leave his guitar to the side more often. Not that he was ever a stagnant performer, but the twirls, the jumps, all of the theatrical movements have been amped up as he’s allowed to take his mic and move around.

Franz Ferdinand live at Vega Copenhagen

But crucially, among all the charm and posing, is fun. Franz Ferdinand are unabashed fun. The set is high energy on stage and off; the floors vibrate as the crowd matches Kapranos jump for jump during “The Dark of the Matinée.” The play to being rockstars — calling themselves rockstars (in the context of rockstars being “lazy fuckers”) — but then not falling to clichés of saving “Do You Want To” or “Take Me Out” for the encore or even the last song before the encore.

Franz Ferdinand understand their audience. They understand that they can pace a show with the biggest hits in the middle of the set. They understand the dedication of the people who come to see them: Kapranos shouts out the kids on the rail who traveled from other countries to be there and people know the words to new songs like “Always Ascending” and “Lazy Boy” like they know all the classics.

It’s with this understanding of their audience and a bit of rockstar posturing that the set closes with a stretched-out version of “This Fire.” First it’s an extended, noise-filled solo that draws it out, then it rolls into a farewell from the band to the audience (complete with that thing where everyone squats down on the floor and then jumps up when the music hits a crescendo). They are rockstars. They love the pageantry, they love the adoration, and they clearly love what they are doing. The audience clearly loves it, too.

LIVE REVIEW: Jenny Hval, Alice, 08.07.2018

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As any of our readers might have guessed by now, Jenny Hval is one of Here Today’s favourite performers. We’ll brave anything, including the post-Roskilde blues to catch her live. Tonight in the intimate environment of Brorsons Kirke we had one of the best opportunities to see her up close, her conceptual theatrics brought into a more personal sphere. Her latest EP, The Long Sleep, sees her taking a more expansive, Pharoah Sanders approach to her music, complete with a horn section.

Tonight Jenny Hval has brought a stripped down horn section, trumpet and saxophone, to rework some of her previous material as well. “Conceptual Romance” begins by eschewing synths altogether, before gradually being joined by a Korg Minilogue and eventually a drum machine. But perhaps “stripped down” is not really the right term for a performance that involves abstract visuals and a member of the band distributing candyfloss from an ornate wooden box.

Of course the saxophone and trumpet really come into their own on “Spells”, where they weave with each other in an expansive, dreamy mood. This song also has the great virtue of showcasing Jenny’s vocal abilities, often obscured in her more spoken-word based work. From a low whisper she climbs up to the refrain’s heady, piercing notes that abandon conceptualism for something a little wilder and riskier.

Although there is a lot of thought and calculation in Jenny Hval’s work, including abstruse references to critical theory, there is also an immediacy to it. Nowhere is this more typified than in the smartphone suite that marks the middle of the performance. It is not unusual for Jenny Hval live sets to involve the band taking selfies and videos of the audience, but tonight they are using the phones for the music itself. Generating tones from an app, the band wave their phones in front of a microphone to produce varying layers of drones. It’s a pretty good summation of her approach to music: thoughtful, funny and beautiful at the same time.

 

LIVE REVIEW: Roskilde Festival 2018, Day 4, 07.07.2018

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Juana Molina live at Roskilde Festival 2018

“Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” If you don’t mind getting biblical, it feels appropriate. After four very dry days at Roskilde Festival, the dust has taken root in every pore and people are covering their faces with bandanas and construction masks that are bringing some Occupy-Wall-Street-meets-bird-flu-epidemic vibes. While we didn’t let it ruin our fun, some of those strange vibes did carry over to the bands we saw.

Juana Molina
“We are ready for war,” says Juana Molina when she and her band take the stage. “I will tell you later.”

As many artists are making political statements or getting caught on the wrong side of visa applications, the mind goes in many different directions. But what’s happened is that the band’s gear got lost en route from Argentina. Molina sang us a song about running to make a plane and then having to borrow gear in Roskilde.

This endearing approach to explaining their preoccupation during the set is helpful, because the band are definitely preoccupied. They’re uncertain of what songs to perform, Molina herself is annoyed at her guitar pedals, and they’re all deeply suspicious of the borrowed Moog synthesizer that never gets used.

So it’s likely not the most representative set of her career. Things veer more towards the South American folk side than the electronica side, making it all more groovy than moody. The set ends on a positive note with the audience providing backing vocals for “Un día.” Maybe it wasn’t a war, but it was good of the band to soldier through.

Mogwai
Mogwai is keeping us waiting. There’s a problem with their gear, and this is one band that won’t work without their pedals. Twenty minutes behind schedule, they emerge with “Mogwai Fear Satan,” four-part guitars and additional drumming from Honeyblood’s Cat Meyers.

The songs come out more dreamy than spiky, big washes of guitar rather than noise that feels absent of aggression despite volume or clever titles. By the time they hit “Remurdered,” there are smiles across all of the bands’ faces, whether from the joy of the mathematical rhythm or simply relief that nothing has broken down mid set.

They close with the sprawling “My Father My King,” coming in at under 20 minutes, allowing them to exit on a massive amount of feedback. Nothing skimped on, nothing trampled over. It was one of those cases where they had to keep us waiting if it was going to work at all. — AF

Gorillaz live at Roskilde Festival 2018

Gorillaz
This set feels like it’s divided into parts. The first part feels very much like a Damon Albarn solo show. Their new album, The Now Now, seems designed for performing without worrying about coordinating schedules or using prerecorded tracks. Albarn is more than capable of holding the stage on his own, and with singles like “Tomorrow Comes Today” and “Melancholy Hill” sprinkled in, the audience is in familiar territory. But Albarn’s speech about his affection for Roskilde, and his clambering up to the rail — something he would previously not done while performing with Gorillaz — underscore the solo show feeling.

The second part of the set, when the guests begin to emerge, feels like a shot in the arm. De La Soul’s appearance for “Superfast Jellyfish” is a portent of what’s to come, and people predictably lose their minds over “Feel Good Inc” later in the set. The energy completely changes as Little Simz and Moonchild Sanelly take the stage and “Stylo” gets new life with Pevene Everrett taking over for the late Bobby Womack. The tour for Plastic Beach had conditioned audiences to expect something spectacular all the time, but this approach of winnowing the set down to what can be performed by the house band and then only including collaborations where they can be found (as opposed to with prerecorded audio and video) is a more solid, sustainable concept.

That being said, the night ends on a very weird note. Closing out the Orange Stage for the whole of the festival with “Clint Eastwood,” what’s guaranteed to be a massive sing along, should be great. Del the Funky Homosapien, who provided the original vocals, comes on stage and delivers the line, “Finally, Damon let me out of my cage,” and then falls off the stage and out of view. The cameras pan over to a confused Albarn, who dashes over to where Del should be. The band continues playing for another 30 seconds, then stops as it’s announced that Del has hurt himself and the set is now over. The festival organizers, who less than two hours earlier were emoting about how lovely the festival has been, how many people have watching sets on the Orange Stage, what a great friend to the festival Damon Albarn is, have now come on to send everyone on their way. See you next year indeed. — AF

Mercy played both Friday and Saturday. Here they are on Friday

M€RCY
M€RCY closed out the Klub Rå program this year in the most perfect way. I was worried their 1 AM time slot (after Gorillaz on Orange stage and competing with Anderson.Paak nearby at Arena) would be ill-attended in the small, stuffy room. When I arrived, a mass of happy people were bouncing and swaying on the grass and the duo (Esben Valløe and Tim Panduro) had set up their mass of electronics in the DJ booth between the tent and the bar. M€RCY’s dark techno provided the perfect energy for the crowd so obviously running on their last fumes. Carefully crafted textures float and swirl around propulsive rhythms full of detail and nuance. Valløe and Panduro’s strength was in the restraint they showed, keeping the tempo at a manageable groove instead of trying to gratuitously hype up the crowd. Seeing an act reading and responding to the audience during a techno set is a rare thing, and M€RCY were dead on without needing to be bombastic. — MT

Words by Mikael Tobias and Amanda Farah. Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh.

LIVE REVIEW: Roskilde Festival 2018 Day 3, 06.07.2018

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David Byrne live at Roskilde Festival 2018

With the sun back in full force, Day 3 of Roskilde Festival 2018 was one for indoor sets. Klub Rå and Gloria provided us with much needed respite as well as moving electronic beats. We were ready for rock music outdoors by the time the sun started going down. Here’s how we paced our day:

The Lost Girls
Jenny Hval’s side project with long time collaborator Håvard Volden is an amalgam of the experimental for the sake of being experimental and pop songs that sound like they’ve been skimmed out of her catalogue. There are weird vocal loops and Norwegian spoken word, but then there’s Volden’s guitar helping him produce the kind of tracks that indie rock bands wish they could dream up for their adventurous electronica crossover albums. It’s also clear that this is a way for Hval to play with vocals and not necessarily follow strict song structures, which it’s only become apparent she does follow in comparison.

Having seen Hval, and by extension, Volden, perform together on several occasions under her name, seeing them positioned across a table from each other without props or costumes or backup dancers is a totally different experience. It feels like getting insight into something not fully fledged, something we a privileged few have been allowed to hear. — AF

Laurel Halo live at Roskilde Festival 2018

Laurel Halo
Laurel Halo’s impressionistic electronic music is not for everyone. She challenges the listener with oddly structured songs and unsettling vocals devoid of traditional pop hooks. Her effected spoken-word breakdowns are long enough to make you wonder when the payoff will come, and then… it doesn’t. But if you’re adventurous enough to succumb and allow yourself to be drawn into her world, it’s full of distorted beauty, musical precision and good old club music bliss. Halo’s set started with her unique avant-pop musings but quickly developed into a dance-floor friendly techno set combining Latin percussion grooves, FM pads, vocal samples as well as her live keyboard playing. Ultimately, Halo’s originality seemed lost on the crowd inside Gloria, but those who were eager to dance were certainly not disappointed. — MT

Bisse live at Roskilde Festival 2018

Bisse
Danish art rocker, Bisse (née Thorbjørn Radisch Bredkjær), whose catapulting stardom has as much to do with his eccentricity as his prolific recorded output (8 albums since 2015), brought an electric energy to his performance on the Avalon stage. Flanked by two incredibly tight drummers up front while his guitarist and keyboard player shredded behind him, Bisse sauntered around the stage with the same confidence as Mick Jagger or Freddie Mercury. Through multiple costume changes and an elaborate scenography with a mirrored telephone booth style box in the centre, his playful attitude and outward sexuality blended with the raw power of his vocals to provide an engrossing experience. Bisse honours his Danish heritage by singing in his native language instead of crossing over to the more commercial English. Yet, he is poised to be one of the defining artists of our generation based entirely on the strength of artistic contributions. — MT

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds live at Roskilde Festival 2018

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
There is no ceremony when Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds arrive on the Orange Stage, there is just the deafening wail of “Jesus Alone.” It’s an instant command of the situation, demand for attention, an establishment of dominance.

So the contrast of Cave climbing the rail to the crowd, allowing them to grasp his hands and paw at him, is immediate. He’ll end up in this place, on and off, for what amounts to half the set. It’s physically giving himself (and on some occasions, his microphone) over to people, whether making himself vulnerable as on the heartbreaking piano arrangement for “Magneto,” or simply trusting them as when he conducts their handclaps for “The Weeping Song.”

There is also sheer ferocity in the band on the whole: Warren Ellis is shockingly cruel to his violin on “From Her to Eternity,” making an unholy noise in the process; someone is forever having to deal with Cave looming over him at the piano; and “Jubilee Street” built to an explosive end that many performers would have found difficult to continue after.

Ultimately, the Nick Cave song everyone knows is “Into My Arms,” and Cave takes this opportunity to orchestrate a sing along. It brings levity to it everything, and is admittedly the least weird song for there to be a sing along to. It was a beautiful moment amongst the murder ballads. — AF

David Byrne live at Roskilde Festival 2018

David Byrne
David Byrne appears on stage sitting behind a long table, holding a plastic model of a human brain. This is the most boring thing to happen all set, because singing to a plastic model of a human brain pales in comparison to an 11-piece backing band, bare footed in matching gray suits, jumping around like an outsider artist marching band.

Byrne’s set is built around songs that focus on the barely-there silver linings of his back catalogue and desperate search for positivity in his new album, American Utopia, best evidenced by the perfect pairing of “Everybody’s Coming to My House” segueing into “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody).” He and his band are perfectly choreographed from the subtle hand flicks of his backing singers to arranged warrior poses full formation drum lines.

And if the collectivist rising evades you, if the lyrics to “Slippery People” don’t resonate as they should, he closes out the set with a  cover of Janelle Monae’s “Hell You Talmbout.” I don’t know how a song about police brutality in the United States translates for a European audience, but it felt very important to a transplanted American. It’s tying everything up with the heaviest moment, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that this performance is an absolute joy.

Words by Mikael Tobias and Amanda Farah. Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh.

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