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Live Reviews - page 21

LIVE REVIEW: EL-P and Killer Mike (Run The Jewels) | Lille Vega, Copenhagen, 20.11.2013

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The bass makes my chest bounce, it makes my nostrils vibrate, it shakes my legs but what is most important: It makes me bob my head. From the moment that El-P and Killer Mike aka Run The Jewels walk on stage they seem determined make the winter cold crowd move. That is what they do and they do it loud!

Last time (my first) I saw El-P was in Loppen, Copenhagen on his Cancer 4 Cure tour. I have been following him since the days of Fantastic Damage, so we where looking at a pile of expectations that had been build up over a decade, but at the end of the night it was a happy boy that zig-zagged his way home  from Loppen. It is about a year ago now. This time El-P and Killer Mike was set to play Store Vega, but the concert was rescheduled to Lille Vega,  yet there was still room – though not a lot. Still someone out there must have been asleep, because Run The Jewels certainly deserve a full house.

EL-P and Killer Mike (Photo by Tom Spray)

The show was intense – just like the album. El-P and Killer Mike are both skilled rappers with many years of experience; when it comes to rapping they are like atomic clocks. On time. In the second half of the show the duo opened up for their respective back catalogs with songs like “Drones over Brooklyn” (from El-P´s album Cancer 4 Cure), “Big Beast” (from Killer Mike’s 2012 album ‘R.A.P. Music), “The Full Retard” (also Cancer 4 Cure) and a personal favorite of mine, a vocal only version of the late nineties Company Flow song called “Patriotism” that made me recall the Allen Ginsberg poem “America”.

Not only did they give a highly energetic live performance, they gave the audience a few good jokes and good vibes as well. The duo really seemed to be enjoying themselves. El-P said it himself towards the end: “I must have the greatest job in the world because each night I get to see this guy [Killer Mike] dance”.

WATCH THE FULL LIVE GALLERY BY TOM SPRAY HERE

LIVE REVIEW: Youth Lagoon, Pumpehuset, 20.11.13

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I joke that the first band tonight are Canada’s finest Faust cover band. In fact, the four multi-instrumentalists of Absolutely Free, while remaining strictly faithful to their krautrock forebears, have the energy to break free of their influences and keep an audience fixed in the present. I say “an audience”, because this one is having none of it. More fool them.

Like fellow chillwavers (kill me now) Washed Out, Youth Lagoon have moved away from the cold, laidback synth shoegaze they are known for, into some kind of hippie folk/prog mess. Front man Trevor Powers has also followed Washed Out in employing Ben H. Allen as producer for Wondrous Bughouse, purportedly resulting in a more bottom-heavy record. But whereas Washed Out’s Earnest Greene has a charm and sense of fun that shines in a live setting, Trevor Powers has somehow managed to become even more snotty. His high, nasal voice makes me back off to the other side of the room, and no promises of “making this night special” are going to win me over.

Youth Lagoon (Photo by Jen Tse)

The faux naïveté of “Dropla”, while a definite crowd-pleaser, proves that lullabies and nursery rhymes are much more complex than they might appear, and Powers isn’t going to get any closer to that complexity by singing like a neonate. I’ve turned into Will Self out of rage.

Several songs result in some extended jam sessions, which have quite the opposite effect of Absolutely Free’s long-form songs. When Youth Lagoon employ repetition, it feels like a lack of ideas. It might also have something to do with genre. Chillwave replied on one specific sound, rather than songwriting, and in moving away from that sound, Youth Lagoon appear as a very generic indie band. Absoultely Free, however, can rely on a genre whose conventions are both powerful and liberating. The motorik beat effectively divides the listener into two separate time zones of attention: the urgent present, and the long-scale form of the song as a developing pattern. That’s how the pleasure in repetition works. But as Youth Lagoon drone on, I would prefer my self to be divided into somewhere far from this.

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LIVE REVIEW: Volcano Choir, Amager Bio, 18.11.13

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Amager Bio is close to full this evening, people travelling here from Gothenburg to witness Volcano Choir’s first gig in Denmark, and first tour in Europe. As expected at any event concerning Justin Vernon, the beards are out in force.

One of the most locally well-known beards belongs to Cody, opening tonight with a solo acoustic set. Without his six companions, his 20-minute set is squarely folk, with the easy charm of someone on home turf.

The seven-piece begin with “Tiderays”, the opener from their latest album, Repave, and already the dynamic of the band is established. Justin stands centre stage, behind a podium, a preacher largely mute in between songs. Stage banter is left to guitarist Chris Rosenau, who enthuses about Copenhagen and the audience at every opportunity. The rest of the band remains nondescript, beneath a textured backdrop that, under red lighting, appropriately mimics lava.

The band unveil two new songs, which sit at either end of the spectrum of styles and genres Volcano Choir swim in, with some post-hardcore basslines and a verse so reminiscent of Animal Collective’s “Also Frightened” that I find myself singing along to the Collective rather than the Choir. This isn’t, in and of itself, a criticism, but for every great rendition of “Acetate” or “Byegone”, there are moments when things do not completely coalesce, as if Volcano Choir are still struggling to move away from being a Vernon™ project.

Volcano Choir (Photo by Tom Spray)

“Still”, a deconstruction of “Woods” from the band’s first album, ironically is one of the strongest demonstrations of what they are capable of as a unit. The layering of vocal samples cleverly anticipates the phrasings by a beat or two, as if to show how precise Bon Iver’s sound really is, precisely tied to specific frasings and chords. The song is also an example of Justin’s role within the live setup: not simply “lead singer”, but a musician working with the modulations of his own voice.

Whatever stylistic reservations I have, and however allergic to earnestness I may be, the intensity is undeniable, and the pulsating “Almanac” shows a band that can pretty much do and play whatever they like.

VIEW THE FULL LIVE GALLERY HERE

LIVE REVIEW: Fuck Buttons, Pumpehuset, 16.11.2013

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The opening to Fuck Buttons’ third album, Slow Focus, is the punishing drum sample of “Brainfreeze.” When they open their set at Pumpehuset with “Brainfreeze,” the immediate impression is that something is lacking. That something is volume.

Despite this initial disappointment, they do build up to the anticipated decibel level, though it takes nearly half an hour of their 75 minute set. That lack of initial impact doesn’t prove to be a deal breaker. Fuck Buttons are one of those electronic acts that give you a sense of creation as they play, rather than just twiddling knobs. Watching Andrew Hung and Benjamin Power make wordless noises into microphones that are fed back to create new, different noise, or the brief, live drumming, during which Power knocks his floor tom off of its platform, are unexpected moments of humanity that take them away from their places hunched over their table.

Fuck Buttons (Photo by Tom Spray)The visuals, however, leave something to be desired. Throughout the show, Hung and Power were silhouetted in real time over myriad kaleidoscopic visuals — a neat trick, but not necessarily one that needed to be carried through the entire show.

Then again, Hung and Powers are themselves entertaining to watch. They both often adopt zen-like expressions and sway very gently while playing. At times, Hung glances over the audience with look of satisfaction that suggests he’s thinking, “Yes, I am responsible for this.” As the pair are separated by a long table, unable to communicate with each other directly, they can be seen making eye contact with one another, and a nod here and there seems to be responsible for new movements in songs.

And if that tires, there is a sea of people dancing, and most amusingly, dancing to different elements of the songs, every individual latching on to some different rhythm. It’s good that they’re into the music, because other than a quick “Thanks” from Power at the end of their main set, no other words are spoken during the entire show. The evening ends in an understated way when Hung raises his drink to the crowd and walks off stage, leaving Power to twist everything into a metallic distortion. But it is only another minute before he, too, faces the crowd and departs with a small wave, leaving us with a fading feedback loop. You can get away with that sort of limited interaction — when the music’s loud enough.

VIEW THE FULL LIVE GALLERY HERE

LIVE REVIEW: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Falconer Salen, 08.11.2013

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Nick Cave does not crowd surf. He hovers above the audience, on their hands, their shoulders, and as he leans back and raises his arms he reminds me of baroque religious paintings by artists like Francisco de Zurbarán and  Caravaggio with his hair black as tar, the silvery shirt and the hands of the crowd stretched towards him.

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds live is one long magic moment.

From the beginning there is no hesitation; the band of seven simply walk on stage, Nick Cave puts is hands in the air, says hello, and goes directly into “We Know Who U R” from the bands 15th. studio album Push The Sky Away. It takes them just about five minutes to get warm and from then on and until the fourth encore, the quite “Give Us a Kiss” that did not make it onto Push The Sky Away, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds simply rule Falconer Salen.

After the second song, “Jubilee Street”, I note: “It is long time ago since I felt like kissing the feet of a man” – which of course should not be taken too literally – and on the following pages words like “YES” or “WOW” occasionally appear written in very large letters. Pure excitement. When Warren Ellis plays the violin, it is a violin so longing, haunted, lonely that it goes right to you bones, and when the drummer hits the drum like a gunshot in “Stagger Lee”, it is a sound that leaves you cold, and when Nick Cave takes the hands of the audience and makes them touch his chest while singing “Listen to the beating of their blood” it is iconic. All through the concert Nick Cave stays in character while connecting with the audience making them participants in the staging of the songs.

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The setlist consists of older songs like “Mercy Seat”, “Tupelo”, “Do You Love Me?”, “Into My Arms” and songs from the new album Push The Sky Away. Every song is performed with urgency and passion. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone Nick Cave explains: 

“Certain songs are living things. “Your Funeral, My Trial” [from the 1986 album of that name] – we played it four or five times on this tour, in a row. One night, I just felt it had drawn its last breath. It died in front of me as I was singing it. I said to Warren, “That’s it for that one.” We don’t play the hits. They are the songs that have the power to survive.”

The dedication, the continuous attention to the songs, to where they are now; you can really feel it. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds are not just “covering” their past; every note you hear feels relevant. The songs are still alive, though some are over 20 years old .

I have had months where I only listened to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. November 8th 2013 I had my first experience with the band live. Never would I have dared to expect such a complete concert.

 VIEW THE FULL PHOTO GALLERY BY JONAS BANG HERE

 

LIVE REVIEW: Daughter, Store Vega, 8.11.2013

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It’s only seven months since Daughter last played Copenhagen. In that time, they’ve not only been bumped up from Lille Vega to Store Vega, but they’ve managed to sell out the big room as well. It’s pretty impressive for a band that’s only existed for three years.

But there’s an odd vibe throughout the show. The band take a few songs to warm up, but even then the energy is low. The vocals are swallowed up by the guitars, which, on the one hand works in a seamless, wall-of-sound way, but on the other drowns out all of Elena Tonra’s lyrics.

It is interesting to see how much of their sound is achieved by bowing guitars, what’s played lived and what’s sampled, and to watch Tonra and Igor Haefeli swap between guitar and bass. Haefeli is the more energetic of the two guitarists; not being saddled with as many vocal duties, he moves around the stage more, and seems more in the moment. Tonra, to her credit, maintains good eye contact with the crowd, which does go a long way to making a big room feel smaller.

But there is still the incessant chatter of the crowd to bring the mood down. Though ready enough with their applause, conversations can be heard through every song, and voices shout over every quiet part where Tonra’s hushed vocals should finally be clear. Maybe this is the downside of Daughter not playing at an ear-splitting volume. There are a few songs, such as “Human” and “Youth,” where the music and  lights coalesce perfectly, and everyone is taken in.

Which is why it’s depressing that the biggest reaction of the evening comes during the encore when Daughter announce that they’re going to play a cover. Everyone in the room knows they’re going to play their broody version of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” and it feels unfair that a novelty cover of this year’s biggest song is what people really seem to want to hear. Tonra has thanked the crowd with a nervous laugh more than once during the set for being so nice. Are we really?

Photo from Daugher’s April show at Lille Vega.

LIVE REVIEW: Julia Holter, Jazzhouse, 05.11.2013

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Julia Holter’s set at Jazzhouse was one of those demystifying performances. To see her songs performed by her at the keyboard, a violinist, a cellist, a saxophonist, and a drummer connects all the dots scattered by her dense albums. From the first notes of opener “Maxim’s 1,” there is clarity. Suddenly every sound is easy to identify, though every musician has several pedals laid out in front of him.

While the mystery is gone, the beauty remains. Holter’s voice is strong and dynamic, whether she’s bellowing over the din of her backing band or whispering over her keys. She is the constant element, the reliable figure at her microphone, while the other variables in the form of jazzy compositions, fairytale soundtracks, and avant garde noise build and recede around her.

While much of her set is taken from her latest album, Loud City Song, she ends the evening with both versions of “Goddess Eyes,” from Ekstasis. She tells the audience it’s about Aphrodite getting her revenge on a mortal before confessing that she doesn’t expect anyone to know the songs.

Holter is chatty and personable between songs, even if she’s just talking about the curry she had for dinner. After watching her perform with a serious face, lost in her work and  sometimes dramatically posed, her banter between sets, whether with the audience or her bandmates, feels like she’s breaking character. And it’s rather endearing.

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Finally, it’s worth mentioning opener Lucrecia Dalt. If there is an organic, demystifying element to Holter’s performance, Dalt’s is exactly the opposite. Alone on stage with a bass, samplers, and pedals galore, she’s like the evil twin of Julianna Barwick, slowly building tracks based on loops and probably taking pleasure in audience members who cover their ears at the high frequency noises.  Then again, the girl who pauses her set to ask why her banana-scented smoke machine isn’t working can’t be all darkness, can she?

VIEW THE FULL LIVE GALLERY HERE

LIVE REVIEW: The National, Forum, 02.11.2013

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Four months ago, The National sold out Loppen. Capacity: 400. This evening, they sold out Forum, reputedly their biggest venue to date. According to the website, Forum can hold 8500 people. Though this is obviously a considerable milestone for the band, something is lost in a venue this size. Despite the name, the National, even in their most grandiose moments, have always channelled their power with intense intimacy.

Openers This Is the Kit are the first victims to the room. The volume is too low, and the band has to fight against the chatter from the back with nothing more than banjo, bass and guitar. This doesn’t seem to faze lead singer Kate Stables at all, as her voice slowly starts to fill the place with impressive power and delicacy. “Earthquake” in particular has a great groove that thumbs its nose at the stupidly big venue.

The introduction to the National is a giant projection, a live-stream of the band hanging out in the dressing room, before casually strolling towards the stage. I’m not sure if this is cleverly self-deprecating or insulting the audience, who impatiently look on as lead singer Matt Berninger checks his phone.

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This is a gig of two distinct parts. The first half left me cold, partly because I am not a fan of their latest album, Trouble Will Find Me, but certainly also due to the weirdness, which the band openly acknowledge, of playing in Forum. Opener “I Should Live in Salt” has people singing along, but it feels diluted, like another band trying to write a National song. But the evening picks up rapidly as they move on to material from Boxer and High Violet, and as Berninger downs more and more wine. Everything centres on him, and it becomes apparent that he has decided on a way to counteract the lack of intimacy, and it involves broken screaming and liberal misuse of liquids.

I’ve been waiting most of the evening to hear “England”. It is probably the most suited to the surroundings, a heavy burden of a song, which takes flight thanks to a small brass section. A string quartet lurks in the back, inaudible, for which I am thankful. Towards the end Berninger, still singing, takes a walk among the crowd, followed by a cameraman and some guy from security awkwardly trying to drag the seemingly endless mic cable. You have to hand it to Matt, for all his moody walking to and fro on stage, he understands how to overcome any barriers with his audience.

As the band closes with an acoustic rendition of “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” (“This is probably the largest venue we’ve ever tried this at”), the strangeness of the concert is at its most apparent, but so is its ultimate success. The National are a good band. One slightly boring album and one huge venue won’t change that.

VIEW THE FULL LIVE GALLERY HERE 

LIVE REVIEW: Iceland Airwaves Day 3, 01.11.2013

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: I have to admit that for some reason I had doubts about how Karen would deliver her songs live. It only took her two songs to prove me wrong, and when she did “XXX 88” she rocked those doubts down. I even said to my friends during the fourth song “Glass” “this is probably the best show we have seen so far this weekend”. Then something happened — The band stopped playing and in the middle of the song she announced that there was something wrong with their computer and that they would have to fix it otherwise they would not be able to keep playing. They started searching for solutions but nothing happened so they had to pack their things and call it a night. It’s like eating a big fat steak, taking one bite and then someone coming and taking it away from you. This was just a huge bummer. ?*/5*

omar souleyman

Omar Souleyman: Souleyman mixes together Arabic folk music and heavy techno beats and samples various songs like “If Ya Getting Down” by the legendary boy band Five. From the second he started playing he got the crowd wild and a lot of people jumping and screaming which can be a rare thing for sophisticated Iceland Airwaves guests. I have never seen a show like this before and it definitely was a fun experience. I’m probably not going to buy his albums or listen to him on daily basis but I would love to see him perform again. 3*/5*

AlunaGeorge: I had a hard time sacrificing seeing Fucked Up play to see AlunaGeorge. I truly regret making that sacrifice. It looked like it was going to be good show to start with. The crowed was digging songs like “Your Drums, Your Love” and “You Know You Like It” but other songs she performed didn’t stand out. Her performance was too safe and in my opinion her voice isn’t good enough. I had a hard time keeping my attention on the stage and watching them because of lack of contact between Aluna, George, and the audience. 2*/5*

Photos by Aníta Björk Jóhannsdóttir and Iceland Airwaves. 

LIVE REVIEW: Iceland Airwaves Day 4, 02.11.2013

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Mac DeMarco: Surprisingly there was no nudity in DeMarco’s show this time. He came on stage with three other band members who all had good input on the show. The guitar particularly sounded so clean and smooth it was like you could see the notes float in the air coming out of the instrument. Mac said in the beginning that he had some problems singing because of a sore throat, but he sounded better than I imagined. He went from singing in an elegant high pitched voice down to cool, deep whiskey style. The whole band was lively and had a very comfortable performance. They were louder than I had thought and always very tuned. The best thing about the band’s performance was its inventiveness. When DeMarco announced there were only two songs left they played a couple of cover songs — for example, a heavy metal version of “Blackbird” were the bassist stretched his vocal chords. They also performed Metallica’s song “Enter Sandman”, the Police song “Message in a Bottle,” and then to trump it all they played “Break Stuff” by Limp Bizkit to which the guitarist was spitting the lines. To end the show they slowed things down and played the beautiful song “Still Together” and DeMarco crowd surfed while providing nice high pitch vocals. 4,5*/5*

Mykki Blanco by C siggi

Mykki Blanco: To get the party started, Mykki sent out a hype man. He performed some odd stunts, rapping and screaming to some hip-hop rock beats. His mission to rouse the crowd failed completely but it sure was interesting. But things were about to get more and more interesting. When Mykki finally came on stage, wearing a provocative dress and turning the concert into a drag show, the crowd went wild and he got the vibe from the audience that was needed. After witnessing him stripping off the dress and showing off some nipple tassels, I didn’t know what to expect musically. When Mykki began to perform his songs the show got to another level. His  rapping skills are admirable and the flow was very tight. Mixing together punk and hip-hop created something I have never heard before. Mykki was obviously exited to play this concert. He did some a cappella rhymes which were very well delivered. I wasn’t so sure about whether I would like Mykki’s music before attending the concert but after this show I am a fan of this drag queen of Hip-hop. 3,5*/5*   

Gold Panda by Magnús Elvar Jónsson

Gold Panda: In my opinion it tends to be kind of weird to stand in a huge crowd and watch some guy press buttons and play with his computer. This time it wasn’t weird at all. Gold Panda truly knows how to create some exotic warm electronic beats that are very easy to dance to. The sound wasn’t perfect and maybe he had some technical problem but that didn’t matter considering that he was performing at 23:00 on a Saturday night. Most of the songs he played are from his new album, Half of Where You Live, and the crowed was digging it. 3,5*/5*

Savages by Magnús Elvar Jónsson

Savages: The coolest act of Iceland Airwaves this year was definitely the four girls from the band Savages. Just with walking on stage they announced without saying it “if you don’t like our music then fuck off”. The band’s style is punk rock, and they dress and perform in that way. The drummer has a big role in their show and showed some good skills pounding the skins. Also Jehnny Beth, the band’s vocalist, gave a powerful performance and sang with much empathy. It wasn’t so crowded at the venue but most of the people seemed to like what they were seeing. On the down side, the songs Savages perform started to sound the same as the show went on. For that reason I sometimes lost attention, but the drummer always knocked me back in. 3*/5* 

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FM Belfast: There is no better way of ending a Saturday night then attending a FM Belfast concert. The venue was crowded with people in all kinds of conditions but everyone went wild without exception. Originally, FM Belfast featured four band members, but this time they were supported by two guys. That gave the three singers of the band more space to move around and hype the crowd. To be honest, my memory doesn’t recall much about this concert, except for jumping up and down, sitting on the floor, and some ribbons and stuff being thrown off the stage. It truly was a blast. 4*/5*

FM Belfast photo by Aníta Björk Jóhannsdóttir. All other photos via Iceland Airwaves.

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