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Lille Vega

LIVE REVIEW: The Wedding Present, Lille Vega, 11.09.2019

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the wedding present live at lille vega copenhagen

It’s 30 years since the Wedding Present released Bizarro, and this low-key anniversary is what brings the indie rock quartet to Lille Vega. It’s not an especially reverential anniversary show. The set opens with “Rotterdam,” from the album Seamonsters, and frontman David Gedge eventually mentions in passing that the Bizarro songs are going to be scattered throughout. “See if you can spot them,” he suggests.

But there’s something energizing about arranging the set this way. It’s not only that the Bizarro songs are scattered through the set, but that new songs crop up with the same verve as the songs that are ostensibly being celebrated. It inspires cheers when a new song is announced and prompts Gedge to admit, “[that’s] not the reaction I was expecting.” The mid-set raucousness of “Kennedy” spills over when immediately followed by the incessantly catchy new tune, “Panama,” the audience readily clapping along via the band’s instructions as if this was an old tradition.

Much of the energy of the show can be attributed to how this current incarnation of the ever-changing line-up of the Wedding Present has also gelled. That the band introduce the song “Telemark,” completed only days earlier, is a testament to their own excitement. This isn’t just meant to be a nostalgia trip, but still a living, breathing project. When Gedge announces that the band don’t do encores, almost everyone in the crowd already know this because they’ve already seen them play. But the crowd don’t want the band to exist in the past and you can see in their performance that having their newer work celebrated breathes life into the songs from 30 years ago. In this respect, this is exactly what anniversary tours should be: It should be a band, and a crowd, in love with what they’ve done in the past, and still in love with what they’re doing now.

LIVE REVIEW: Wolf Alice, Lille Vega, 19.01.2018

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Wolf Alice live at Lille Vega Copenhagen

The perpetual buzz surrounding Wolf Alice has not subsided. For their sold out show at Vega, they’ve lured in a crowd ranging from jaded middle age rockists to enthusiastic teens wearing the band’s shirt — the sort of range you see at bigger venues for acts that have been around beyond a second album.

The band rise to the expectations. Frontwoman Ellie Rowsell’s persona and posture shift with the delivery of each song, from crooning to shouting, proving right out of the gate that the depth of her vocal timbre isn’t a production trick. Meanwhile, the boys flanking her on guitar and bass are living out their rock star fantasies in real time. Guitarist Joff Oddie spends most of  “Space and Time” knocking his guitar around in a way that vaguely suggests frustration (or at least  the feedback wasn’t substantial enough for it to be for the sake of sound). But their crowd pleasing shtick is a successful one, and the audience eats up every occasion that they balance themselves on the monitors.

The energy only amps up as the show draws near to the hour mark. A mosh pit erupts towards the center. This would be cool except there is a row of teenage girls lining the stage and the pit mostly consists of men who are older (if only slightly) and larger and shoving from every direction. As bassist Theo Ellis has jumped up on the monitors and eggs the crowd on as he has throughout the gig, I’m now distracted, staring at this line of girls and watching more than one close call between a face and the stage.

Everyone gets out in one piece and everyone seems to have had a good time. But my enduring impression of the evening is the hope that those girls keep fighting their way to the front of the room, but also that they learn how to throw elbows.

LIVE REVIEW: The Horrors, Lille Vega, 27.11.2017

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the horrors live lille vega copenhagen

You could be forgiven if the image conjured up by mention of the Horrors was one of too much hair spray and lanky moodiness. It’s an image they’ve sold for the last decade, from their initial emergence from the garage rock revival, never quite shed as they began to explore denser, dreamier arrangements, and supported yet again tonight at Lille Vega if by nothing else than the number of Unknown Pleasures t-shirts in the audience.

The band on stage, however, are not moody, loafing neo-goths, but a group of high energy stumbling and twisting their way around. Amidst a total onslaught of enveloping lights and dizzying strobes is singer Faris Badwan, glammed out in leather trousers and sequined shirt. He’s thrashing around from the word go, flanked by Rhys Webb and Joshua Hayward, who are more subdued in their dress and movements but test the limits of their energy and balance.

the horrors live lille vega copenhagen

The focus of their evening is the new album, V, and the set tacitly ignores their debut. Having cast off any garage rock associations, what is left is a lush wash of guitars and synths. The live arrangements have more focus on the rhythm section, and even if the albums don’t inspire you to dance there are people dancing now.

There’s a warmth and enthusiasm in the crowd, at one point inspiring a woman to shout, “I love you, Josh!” at Hayward, and prompting Badwan to demand, “And what about me?” Though Badwan has the pouting pose down pat, he spends most of the evening continuing to lunge about the stage and teetering on the monitors, at one point beckoning to a man in the crowd and then prodding him with a mic stand when he doesn’t respond. It seems like things could spill over at any moment, that Badwan could fling himself into the crowd while “Still Life” rolls on behind him, but it never gets that intense.

It’s all weirdly just fun.

LIVE REVIEW: Teenage Fanclub, Lille Vega, 10.02.2017

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There’s a strange air at gigs of bands who hit their commercial peak in the ‘90s but never broke up. It’s the oddity that always being around never created more demand, that their availability didn’t spark the imaginations of a younger generation who could only hypothesize what it would be like to see them play live, that the devoted are the same devoted of 25 years ago.

And with that in mind, the vibe at Teenage Fanclub’s Vega show is curiously energized. These are the same devoted of 25 years ago, middle-aged or closing in on it fast, but they aren’t stuck in the early ‘90s. These are people who know the words to the songs from 2016’s Here, who call repeatedly for “Baby Lee”  (which doesn’t get played), who erupt when the band plays “It’s All in My Mind.” They’re the sort of crowd who have seen this band many times before and know the earliest work is saved for the very end of the set and wait patiently to hear it.

Teenage Fanclub themselves hit on a signature sound somewhere around the release of Grand Prix, and their new songs blend seamlessly with the old. It helps that over the years they’ve all become stronger singers, stronger players, and have found a place for their keyboardist/third guitarist to add an extra, shimmering layer to every song. It’s not a flashy or visually stimulating set, but it’s technically solid and full of positivity. 

Norman Blake in particular looks incredibly happy with his lot in life. He’s not bothered by the middle-aged couple down front talking selfies with the band behind them, nor is he fussed by the woman in a red dress who jumps up on stage towards the end of the set. All of the band look perplexed, but the woman, dancing around the stage, isn’t being obnoxious, isn’t getting in the way, isn’t trying to assault the band, so everyone lets it slide. She dances with their guitar tech and when the song ends gives a courtly hand to Blake, who looks amused and charmed. It’s about the least embarrassing way that scenario could have played out.

The lead up to the end of the evening rolls back the clock through “The Concept” and “Star Sign” before landing on their debut single, “Everything Flows.” If you’ve listened to the album version of “Everything Flows,” it’s easy to appreciate how much more tuneful the live performance is, how they’ve learned to build on the foundations of what their music was then but retain the raw, ramshackle energy that made it exciting in the first place. It’s a little emotional to watch because even if you as an individual do not have that attachment, everyone around you does. The band does. And it’s a good moment.

 

LIVE REVIEW: Holly Golightly, Lille Vega, 01.11.2016

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Musician Holly Golightly live in Copenhagen

Lille Vega is a nice venue: It’s a comfortable size, the sound is decent, and the décor is at the least completely inoffensive. According to Holly Golightly, the venue is also quite “grown up.” It’s hard to say exactly what she means by that — perhaps she’s never outgrown her scrappy punk years with Thee Headcoatees — but it’s a term she comes back to again and again.

It’s a positivity that comes in handy when the room is only about a third full. And it’s reflected back from the crowd; though blues and country-inspired rock songs aren’t the most obvious songs to dance to, people are dancing (or “jigging around,” as Holly prefers). But because there are so few people in the room, there’s plenty of space for it, and it’s nice to see couples busting out the moves they learned in that one dance class they took together when they first started dating.

At times the evening has the feeling of an elaborate pub gig, not least because Holly has spent most of the last 15 years subtly shifting through different, adjacent genres. And through the evening her songs traverse predominantly blues tracks into Americana and, on the stripped down “My Love Is,” a bossa nova-flecked jazz. Though Holly has long since stepped away from her noisy, garage rock beginnings, there i still a girlish, cheeky quality to her vocals, and she is adept at choosing styles that suit her voice.

And given that these styles are less raucous than her earliest projects, it’s a bit surprising when, late in the evening, she once again cites the grown-up nature of Vega and says,“Usually people are throwing things by now.” It’s possible that Copenhageners are especially polite, or it could be that the fight doesn’t go out of a performer just because she turns the volume down.

LIVE REVIEW: Marissa Nadler, Lille Vega, 08.06.2016

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Marissa Nadler live at Vega

We’ve all been to the half-full show where the artist on stage begs everyone to come a little closer to the stage. If they’re very engaging, people come forward; if they’re not, the audience stays where they are and everyone feels awkward.

Marissa Nadler does not play these games. Instead she walks on stage at Lille Vega alone, picks up her guitar, and begins playing “Drive.” The audience immediately gravitates towards her.

There’s an uncommon amount of competition for musicians that night. Marissa’s audience have elected to see her instead of Muse or the Melvins who both have sold out shows nearby. This small crowd is dedicated; one person even corrects her about what album “Dying Breed” is on. It’s not surprising that they’re attention is rapt, nor to see them gently swaying as she sings. Even if you’re a newcomer to Marissa’s music, something about it makes you feel peaceful.

Her solo songs, all played on a semi-hollow electric — no acoustics, no 12 strings — highlight her voice more. To listen to her in this setting is to hear her voice as a separate entity from everything else happening. It floats not only over the music but over everyone else in the room. It’s the very evocation of “haunting.”

After a few songs she brings out her band, two of whom are openers Wrekmeister Harmonies (and highly recommended for lovers of vaguely droning rock songs and rich vocal harmonies). This portion of her set focuses on her new album, Strangers, released last month. Marisa’s voice melts into these arrangements, with guitar and viola or electric piano ready to swallow it up. It feels like a departure, and it’s only a small part of her set, but she proves that she can bring the same depth as when she’s on her own.

After this interlude she’s solo again, and focusing on older songs, because, as she said of Strangers, “a lot of you don’t know it yet, right?” She ends her main set with a cover of “Tecumseh Valley” by Townes van Zandt — which in her hands sounds as much a part of her catalogue as her own songs — and plays Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat” for her final song of the night because she “came all the way to Denmark for one show [and had] to make it worth it.” It was worth it.

If you don’t really know Strangers yet or missed out on Marissa, never fear, she’s got plans to return to Copenhagen this year. No matter what else is happening, you’ve no excuse to make other plans.

LIVE REVIEW: Kate Tempest, Lille Vega, 13.04.2015

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Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)

It’s a strange mix of emotions that come out of Kate Tempest’s show. Most of her set at Lille Vega is taken from her Mercury Prize-nominated album, Everybody Down, which tells the story of disaffected working class youth trying and failing to make a better life for themselves. It doesn’t sound like fodder for an uplifting evening, but that sense of encouragement is precisely the feeling you walk away with after her show.

Tempest opened her set with “Marshall Law,” performing the first verse as spoken word to a silent room before bringing in her band of two drummers and a synth player.

katetempest-8492

Having the live band instead of a majority of programming hugely contributes to the energy, with Tempest playing off of the other performers and, early in the evening, grabbing one drummer in a huge hug at the end of a song. But watching the interplay of the backing band on songs like “Good Place for a Bad Time” make you appreciate that the majority of her beats are live.
These are the details you can only really notice when Tempest herself isn’t at the mic. She’s engaging and difficult to look away from. Her rap of “Chicken” is at about double the speed of the album version, and the audience is almost unable to process her skill.

katetempest-8469

So when Tempest ends the night talking about the need for empathy, for the power of pursuing your dreams, there’s something youthful and infectious in this idealism. But she’s old enough and has been through enough for us all to believe that maybe, just maybe, she knows what she’s talking about.

LIVE REVIEW: Cold Specks, Lille Vega, 21.01.2015

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Cold Specks | Vega, Copenhagen

Photos by James Hjertholm (jameshjertholm.com)

Cold Specks is an artist who has experience significant musical development in a very short period of time. She started out with solid songwriting ability, but with the release of her second album, Neuroplasticity, she capitalized on the ability to write more complex arrangements. Backed on stage at Vega by a full band including keys and woodwinds, it’s the new album and the new energy that she wants to put forward, that she wants to make people move.

Yet there are many quieter moments where her songs border on spirituals, especially the a cappella songs (and I’ll go on record saying that I’ll happily buy a record of Cold Specks lullabies, because when she sings a cappella you want her to sing everything a cappella) but there is also a great intimacy to her solo guitar performances. This involves delving into her first album, despite insisting that she rarely plays her older songs, and it’s her older songs that lend themselves more to this feeling, that are weightier lyrically and more minimal in arrangements.

Cold Specks | Vega, Copenhagen

But then she peppers her stage banter with off-handed obscenities and laments that playing guitar requires her to take off the intricate silver cuffs on her wrists, and this lifts some of the earnestness away. The mood in the room is largely positive, the crowd is respectful (which means they’re quiet enough to appreciate the solo songs), and she continues to open up as the set progresses.

There is a moment, however, when the air is sucked out of the room. Cold Specks has worked the protest refrains, “Hands up, don’t shoot, I can’t breathe” into different songs in recent months. Tonight it was in “Blank Maps,” and it’s heavy and heartbreaking because it’s so sadly perfect.

It feels like a turning point in the evening, because the response to “Blank Maps” is so positive, the applause extends noticeably, that from that point forward there is no longer an atmosphere simply of respect but of support. Not even a Nick Cave cover is received so enthusiastically. From then on, it’s clear that she could hit us with whatever she has.

Cold Specks | Vega, Copenhagen

LIVE REVIEW: Sharon Van Etten, Lille Vega, 18.11.2014

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Sharon Van Etten

However confessional her music is, Sharon Van Etten isn’t a minimalist singer-songwriter. Her live performance, though uncluttered, isn’t minimalist either. Switching between different guitars and omnichord on each song, she is rarely still for very long, always occupied with tuning or adjusting levels as much as she is with singing. Most of her set is taken from her latest album, this year’s Are We There, with non-album tracks “I Don’t Want to Let You Down” and “Tell Me,” plus an unrecorded Karen Dalton cover from a forth-coming compilation thrown in for good measure.

What is perhaps the best aspect of Van Etten’s live show is that she preserves the vocal harmonies that are so carefully crafted on her albums with the help of her bandmates’ backing vox. Songs like “Break Me,” with its interwoven lyrics, shine through because of it. But because Van Etten is so egalitarian about the harmonies, it isn’t until she is on her own with just her guitar that the true, overwhelming depth of her voice is apparent. On her own, it’s her voice that fills the room, that whispers and warbles and could knock anyone flat with its strength.

Sharon Van Etten

It’s not surprising that Van Etten is a formidable performer, but the way she talks to her audience is. There is a seriousness to her recordings that leads the listener to imagine the delivery with a straight face and maybe a raised eyebrow, whether she’s making reference to a relationship or defecation. But there is an affable goofiness that comes out between songs. The longer she’s on stage, the more rambling her chatter becomes. It’s the increasingly relaxed demeanor that has her talking about which songs her parents like best, giving reviews of local restaurants, and admitting that people call her “ADDSVE.” It’s a different kind of emotion from Van Etten, and it’s endearing. And really, who among us couldn’t use a recommendation for a good Italian restaurant?

Sharon Van Etten

 

LIVE REVIEW: Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Lille Vega, 29.01.2014

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The demographic of the crowd for Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks at Lille Vega is striking: the overwhelmingly male crowd seems to be evenly divided between those who have been following Malkmus since the ‘90s, and those who look just old enough to have discovered Pavement on their 2010 reunion. Amusingly, many men of all ages have Malkmus’ haircut.

Malkmus is still the archetypal indie rock guy, lanky, hunched over when he sings, and he comes on stage chewing gum, which he manages to keep up through the entirety of opening song “Tigers” before spitting it onto his setlist.

Yet somehow there is an ease to the evening. Having stacked several of his shorter tunes early in the set, the band seems to speed through songs, as evidenced by a 22 song set list (further bolstered by a medley of covers in the encore). This balances things nicely when Malkmus does indulge in guitar solos, including the ridiculous rock star move of playing his guitar behind his back for the outro of “Senator.”

Stephen Malkmus (Photo by Ivan Boll)

The vocals could stand to be a little louder, they sometimes get lost under the guitars and keyboards, but the band is tight. Between songs, when Malkmus makes sometimes awkward banter (or at least when his question about whether anyone in the audience has ever accidentally appeared in the background of Borgen falls on deaf ears), his bandmates take jibes at him that he readily deflects back them.

While a chunk of the show was devoted to the band’s latest album, Wig Out at Jagbags,  the Pavement songs “Harness Your Hopes” and “Summer Babe” still creep in at the end. Of course, these are the songs that garner the most enthusiastic responses of the evening. Malkmus is still the archetypal indie rock guy, clearly comfortable with what he’s doing now. But obviously most of his audience arrived at what he’s doing now via what he did 20 years ago.

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