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.
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.
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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.
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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.
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?
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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.
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.
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MØ: 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: 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*
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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: 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: 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: 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*
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*
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Sometime: This Icelandic duo was formed in 2005 and has made two albums. The brain in the band is TheDanni, who writes, records, and produces their music. During the bands set he had a lot on his hands, maybe too much, and had some problems keeping up with the beat. He was playing beats from the computer while doing fills on the electronic drum pad. Sometimes less is more in music and TheDanni should keep that in mind in the future. Supporting him on stage was Diva de la Rosa providing vocals with a powerful voice and confident stage performance. They had their ups and downs during the show but it was still a good effort. The hall wasn’t very crowded but everyone seemed to be having a good time — the band members as well. 2,5*/5*
Prins Póló: For those who do not speak Icelandic, the Prins Póló shows are not as much fun to watch as for those who do. The lyrics are so important to their performance and if you don’t understand it you’ll probably be saying “WTF?” a couple of times during the show. Their pop punk style is just hilarious, creating an atmosphere similar to a stand up show. The front man of the band, Svavar, has a funny way of putting words together in his lyrics and people are constantly smiling when they see them perform. For example: The last song they performed is about an 18-year-old boy which is in love with a 100-year-old woman. You get my point. But it’s not just the lyrics that make Prins Póló interesting, it’s also grooving, simple rhythms that the four group members provide that without the lyrics would be as much fun. 3*/5*
Jagwar Ma: Making a big entrance, coming on stage with “What Love” and putting the volume up to eleven, the crowd went wild. This was obviously a band that many had been waiting to see perform. They released their debut album this summer which I really liked and I too was looking forward to the show. They defiantly have some good songs and gave all they had in their performance, but there was something off about them. The guitar didn’t fit the electronic house beats well enough and sometimes it felt like they were playing two songs at the same time. All their songs started up with a good beat and interesting melodies but when it comes to the point to break it up a bit, nothing happened and the show got monotonous. They peaked playing the song “Four,” which is a well suited live song. The singer, who looked and acted like Zoolander, needed a little more power added to his voice because of the loudness in the hall. Despite some flaws this was a solid performance from Jagwar Ma. 3*/5*
Yo La Tengo: On paper they are the biggest act playing at Airwaves this year other than Kraftwerk, and because of that they got a full hall. People were streaming in in the beginning of the show, but as it went on the stream started to go the other way. The band played some of their slower songs to begin with, as expected. They were very active in changing instruments and mixing up the show but Ira Kaplan stayed on electric guitar most of the time. He went from playing with much sangfroid to suddenly changing the mood, swinging the guitar in the air and creating a fuss. It sometimes felt like Kaplan forgot that he was playing in front of audience; he just went on with an experimental jam, not even connecting with the other members of the band. Some parts of it sounded cool but most of it was far away from cool. There is no doubt about their musical talent but this show needed more excitement and passion.
Before the concert I was very excited, being a big fan of albums like I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One and And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-out. I even dragged my friends with me to the concert telling them that this would probably be the best one this weekend. They will probably not trust me to make a selection for the rest of the festival because I couldn’t have been more wrong. 2*/5*
Photos by Aníta Björk Jóhannsdóttir and Iceland Airwaves.
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When Biffy Clyro walk on stage to Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family,” all of them already stripped to the waist (barring their touring guitarist, branded an outsider by virtue of his shirt and tie), there is something a bit cheeky in their attitude. It only takes a few minutes, however, to realize that this seasoned touring band know how to keep things light, and know how to be prepared. Indeed, throughout the show, there is so much sweat dripping off of frontman Simon Neil that it’s a wonder he doesn’t miss any notes.
The Scots trio pride themselves on being a strong live band, and their sense of pride is well earned. Four men on a large stage in a large room have a lot of space to fill with just their presence. But the audience is ready to respond to them, ready to mirror their jumping, and there are times when the crowd looks like it will spill into a mosh pit — thought it never does.
Early in the show they give, according to Neil, the live premiere of “Accident Without Emergency,” and follow it up by each grabbing a strobe light to hoist over their heads (to which those in the audience not made motion sick by strobe lights showed tremendous enthusiasm). By the time the band kicks into “Bubbles,” several men in the audience have followed the band’s lead and taken off their own shirts, one of which eventually makes its way onto the stage.
Neil gets a chance to catch his breath with the obligatory slowdown of the set, in this case him alone on stage with his acoustic guitar. While his bandmates towel off backstage, he leads the audience in a singalong of “Folding Stars.” It’s a moment that probably should be intimate, but the space, the people, and the sweaty, shirtless, tattooed man on stage make for a somewhat odd spectacle.
What Biffy Clyro do well is keep their setlist varied, spanning their entire catalogue. But there is a notable difference in how they perform their earlier, crunchier songs — the ones that have them climbing monitors and jumping off the drum riser — and their more recent, more anthemic material. And having this broad spectrum traversed in just shy of two hours does leave one wondering how a once borderline hardcore band has ended up in musically tamer territory.
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Leaves: A lot of changes have development in this band since they played their first gig at Airwaves 2001. They were so close to world-wide popularity when they released their first album, Breath, in 2002 but something was missing and maybe has been ever since.
It was rather obvious that Leaves haven’t been performing a lot lately when they stepped on the stage. The members looked a bit stiff and stressed but still cool, and there is no doubt that these guys are professional performers.
I went to see Leaves play because of my love for Breath and also some of their stuff from The Angela Test and We Are Shadows. Most of the songs they performed were from their newest album, See You In the Afterglow, and for me that was a bummer and I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one in the hall with that opinion. Still they put on a good show and they performed the songs well. The singer, Arnar Guðjónsson, has a great high pitch voice and sounds a lot like Matthew Bellamy from Muse. The show was good but if they had just played two old classics and added a little bit of passion, it could have been so much better. Also, I have to add that having the keys on playback is not cool. 2,5*/5*
Sóley: It was really crowded and there was obviously a lot of excitement in the audience to see Sóley perform. Even though some were standing 100 meters from the stage when she performed the whole audience was brought close when she raised her sensitive voice. She flirted at the microphone and told silly jokes between songs, which made the show more fun to watch. All through her set she got complete silence from the audience and everyone’s attention was on her. As she pointed out during the show, it was obviously Wednesday. The show peaked in the last two songs when she performed “Pretty Face” and “I’ll Drown” with remarkable looping skills. Sóleys career as a solo artist is still rising and soon she will have a tighter set. When that happens, it will be even more interesting to see her perform. 3*/5*
Samaris: I was on my way to see Mammút play at Harpan when I heard the tripping heavy beats of Samaris coming from the next room. I don’t regret sticking my head in to the hall to see if I was missing something good because I would have. There was no way I was leaving this concert after the first song. Their setup consists of the singer Jófríður sounding a lot like Björk, computer musician Þórður and clarinet player Áslaug, who had to be replaced during this show. This combination brings something special to the air and watching them perform is pure pleasure. Þórður provided dope, heavy electronic beats which fit Jófríðurs voice perfectly and her weird performance style makes it even more interesting. Songs that stood out were “Hljóma þú” and remixed version of the song “Viltu Vitrast”. Already having made a magnificent show they topped the performance with their well-known hit “Góða Tungl” which made the audiences obviously happy. 4*/5*
Retro Stefson: There is always so much energy in the air when this band goes on stage. This time they were supported by Hermigervill. Retro Stefson alone can provide some good grooves but with Hermigervill onboard the funky grooves they showed off were irresistible. They played the set on full speed almost without stopping and mixed the songs together making it even more fun to watch and listen. The singer of the band Unnsteinn made an entertaining performance directing the crowd and telling them to move left, right, up and down. His brother, Logi Pedro, meanwhile was slapping the bass like a maniac. The end of their gig was brilliant when they jammed between “Qween” and “She Said,” then ending it with “Glow” which made the crowd go wild. Suddenly it didn’t feel like Wednesday. 4*/5*
Emilíana Torrini: She sometimes has a way of making her shows personal and touching. This show was one of them. She talked a lot about her new born baby boy and said that he had inspired her recent work. Emilíana brought six band members with her to back her up, but still she dominated the stage with her outstanding voice. She was always smiling and giggling during the gig and dedicating songs to her child and the audience. The beginning of her show was very powerful and set a good mood to the audience. As songs went by a little bit of power was missing but she made up for that when she got her encore and performed “Sunnyroad” and “Jungle Drum”. 3,5*/5*
All photos via Iceland Airwaves.
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Let me premise this by saying that I began the evening by walking headfirst into a glass wall. That made me unhappy bunny in a crowd of smiling rodents. Nursing a red forehead, I look around and notice that half the audience seems to be made up of men with glasses and beards. Is this what the bearded listen to, Chvrches?
As the opening act begin to play I realise that Thumpers, sadly, are probably not one of the all time top ten bands named after Disney characters. The duo are joined by two keyboardist and a very enthusiastic backing vocalist and trumpeter, but I can’t help thinking that when they first formed, the drummer must have just said “I’m going to play the drum bits from Adam and the Ants songs, and you do whatever you like over it.”
As Chvrches’ lead singer Lauren Mayberry points out, this is the first headlining gig the band have played in Copenhagen since the release of their debut album, The Bones of What You Believe. Their warm reception here is unsurprising, given icy grip that synthpop has held over Scandinavia since Erik the Red first declared war on Mick Hucknall. The show is sold-out, and I can barely make out a giant LCD triangle on stage, and the bobbing head of some guy who has, for reasons unknown, decided this is the right place and decade to pogo.
It is uncanny when a live band manage to sound exactly like their records, and though this should be a compliment to Mayberry’s distinctively shrill vocals, I can’t help wondering what’s the point of aiming for that kind of perfection. But this is what Chvrches fans want to hear, and as Mayberry advises us to keep hydrated in the tropical climate of Lille Vega, I’m slightly ashamed at my cynicism and wonder if, on a day when I don’t career into transparent walls, I too could enjoy listening to a hyper-faithful rendition of “Gun” or “The Mother We Share”. Well no, let’s be honest, that’s not going to happen.