Forum is already half-full when Band of Skulls open with Southampton’s answer to blues rock. They are clearly from a generation whose influences are dominated by Queens of the Stone Age. A great band for a smoke-saturated dive bar, the trio hold their own on the huge stage, thanks to a focus on riffs that doesn’t degenerate into self-indulgent soloing. Perhaps not the most inventive take on the genre, but they can sure warm up a crowd.
Much as I would like to, I cannot, in good conscience, give Queens of the Stone Age five stars. Certainly this isn’t due to the material, or the band’s ability, both having being cemented long ago as titanic. Forum is sadly up to its old tricks, messing up the sound so that Josh Homme’s vocals are near inaudible, and midway through the second song, “My God is the Sun”, the sound cuts out altogether. For the first half hour the band looks tired, with barely a word uttered between songs apart from a half-arsed “’sup”. Eventually, Josh admits that the tour has ground them down, but after a few beers and a smoke, he perks up, and next thing you know the band is really there, egged on by the crowd.
Queens of the Stone Age take us all back to being teenagers. It’s not simply because many of the songs are part of the eternal soundtrack of those times, but because their energy and simplicity lets listeners of any age experience again the physiological explosion music causes in adolescence. This is true of mental “Little Sister” as it is of “Make it wit chu” (“this is a song about fucking”) or “If I had a Tail” (“the song we have most fun playing”). It’s been worth all the technical glitches, the moodiness and reticence to get to this point.
“I’m happy and drunk,” exclaims Josh Homme. An hour in, he has reached his comfort zone, and takes the time to introduce the members of the band. Jon Theodor, ex-Mars Volta drummer, gets a well-deserved roar from the crowd.
The encore sees Josh on piano for “The Vampyre of Time and Memory”, before concluding with some heavy, some might say indulgent, jams of some of their louder tracks. I take the time during these moments to observe the animations behind the band, a bloody tableau worthy of FX cartoon Metalocalypse. It’s impossible to think of Queens of the Stone Age without a sense of fun, and their humour is obvious. Thank the infernal deities that they are able to recover that sense even in their most trying moments.
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“This is the wildest thing! We haven’t even got an album out and still you are here”. MØ is excited. She is half way through a sold out concert at Store Vega, a legendary venue that holds around 1500 people; she has been crowd surfing; her band is fantastic; she and her band has played 120 twenty shows in 20 countries this year and still Brazil is waiting. Her excitement is easy to understand.
Last time I saw Karen Marie Ørsted was a couple of years back when she played at Loppen with Mor – the elecro-punk duo she and her friend, Josefine, started as teenagers in 2007. I don’t remember that night as crowded.
Now she is close to the hottest thing Danish.
The first sign that told me that MØ could meet the expectations of the audience, was when I saw three horns, a trumpet, a trombone and a saxophone, lurking around on stage prior to the concert. Another early sign was when I recognized the drummer (Rasmus Littauer), who I had the chance to experience and who really impressed me with his precise and raw drumming, when we recorded our sessions with Reptile Youth and Broke.
The band was apart from the above mentioned put together of synths (and more) and guitar, but they were dark figures while a follow spot kept MØ in focus all through the concert. Her appearance was energetic and raw – her rise towards stardom did not seem to have tamed her in any way. The performance felt both confident and honest.
As a backdrop there was some really impressive visuals projected on a canvas spanning the whole height of the scene. It was in large part a mix of landscapes, archival footage and triptychs of MØ performing the backup vocals to her songs. Everything was kept in a rough black and white aestethic at times reminding me of the one pioneered by photographers as Daido Moriyama from Japan. The interplay between and the visuals and the live performance worked really well.
MØ played a full set and considering the fact that there is no album out yet, that is quite extraordinary; it basically meant that even the most die-hard fans probably only knew five or six songs. The concert could then be seen as a dress rehearsal – a promising one indeed.
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For a solo artist, little additions can make worlds of difference. As a folk singer with a belter of a voice, he could easily carry himself through a set alone. He proves this quickly when he swaps his guitar for a violin on the outro of “Short Life,” and when he manages to lead the audience in a sing along on “Way Go Lily” (whereas opener Rebecca Collins failed to get people to join her on a cover of “My Favorite Things”) — and these are only his opening two songs.
But Amidon isn’t alone. He has drums, bass, and assorted noise provided by Chris Vatalaro, and these additions do make a difference, sometimes by just filling in the bottom and sometimes by making a startling racket. And it allows for a sense of preservation of what — besides Amidon’s somewhat solemn delivery — is so alluring about the music in the first place.
Aside from being a talented singer-songwriter, aside from him having that clear, crisp voice (with or without the countrified warble), much of Amidon’s performance hinges on an unexpected humor. There’s chatter about his latest album being inspired by Jimi Hendrix contacting him from the grave and telling him to make round music (what that means Jimi never qualified — which Amidon considers to be “an asshole move”). There’s a digression about Chet Baker’s “Do It the Hard Way” that turns into a further digression of scat. There’s a story about taking a nap and dreaming about using a tiny, fuzzy donkey as a pillow that lasts several minutes.
The humor is in the music, too: “My Old Friend” ends in a shrill scat following the Chet Baker musings. A jig played on the violin devolves into the sort of choked scratching any parent with a child learning to play the violin has heard a hundred times over — but Amidon is making eye contact with a laughing crowd as if wondering for how long he can get away with it. And it’s in a perfectly earnest cover of R. Kelly’s “Relief,” in which he leads another success sing along, but still finds time to mention that he is thankful that R. Kelly has “written a song with a shifting relationship to reality.” Much like Amidon doesn’t need Vatalaro assisting him with the music, he doesn’t really need this bizarre humor either. But his performance is certainly more special for both of these features.
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Whatever the opposite of a cult of personality is, that’s what Anders Trentemøller is. Seeing him lined up with his band in a perfect row, it is not immediately apparent that the man behind the keyboards is at the helm of this dark, almost ambient rock.
It’s not until 40 minutes into the set when Trentemøller’s bandmates have fallen away and he is left alone on stage with his synths and a glockenspiel to play “Miss You” that it’s really clear who is at the center of the project creatively and not just physically.
In fact, Marie Fisker, who provides all of the lead vocals for the evening (she also sings the vocal on “Candy Tongue” on Lost) as well as playing guitar, could easily be mistaken for the band’s frontwoman. She spends more time playing to the crowd than Trentemøller himself, who only occasionally stalks out from around his keyboards to contort his wiry frame.
But Trentemøller’s set is much more about atmosphere than rock star performances. There is something restrained in the entire band’s performance. The energy is evident, but everyone keeps him and herself relatively confined to their respective spaces, though maybe that’s because there’s just too much gear to worry about knocking over. Trentemøller himself attacks his synths as though he’s longing for a more mobile instrument to allow him to get some of that energy out.
Which may sound surprising if what you were expecting was the delicate, introspective beauty of Lost. When some songs are three guitars deep, it’s inevitable that those instruments will overtake the nuance of some of the composition, but no one seems disappointed. Judging by the vibe in the room, people are here to dance in their own similarly restrained ways. They’re ready to accept loud guitars and glockenspiels in equal turn. They are pleased with their un-rock rockstar.
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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.
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”.
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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.
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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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.
“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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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.