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LIVE REVIEW: Franz Ferdinand, Store Vega, 01.09.2018

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Franz Ferdinand live at Vega Copenhagen

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

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

Franz Ferdinand live at Vega Copenhagen

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

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

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

LIVE REVIEW: Johnny Marr, Store Vega, 19.05.2018

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Johnny Marr live at Store Vega Copenhagen

Johnny Marr is one of the greatest guitarists of his generation, but he’s only come into his own as a solo artist in the last few years. His visit to Store Vega, however, suggests that he’s now at home in this role. Half of the set is songs from his forthcoming album, Call the Comet. You can stream a couple of the tracks now, but it’s mostly unavailable.

But Marr knows that you know him from a particular time and place (or maybe from one of the other dozen bands he’s played with in his career), and everyone in the audience seems keen just on being in his presence. They’re excited about the new material, they’re just as happy to rock out to “Easy Money” as any 80s classic.

Marr also has a very low-key personality that lends itself well to what feels more like a promotional exercise than your average tour. He has a few guitar god stances to pull, but seems to quickly become shy about them. He expresses his mixed feelings about streaming as he introduces his latest single, “Hi Hello,” asking the audience to buy it even if it’s only a bit of plastic. There is a jangle to his new songs that brings to mind his work with the Smiths, and an evident but not heavy-handed political bent that jives well with being the guy who told off David Cameron.

And there are unexpected moments such as“Getting Away With It” from his project Electronic. While he seems to reach for the notes that Bernard Sumner hits on his own, the focus on guitar compared with the atmospherics of the album version breathes a new energy into the song.

But in answer to the inevitable question,”Is he playing any Smiths songs?” the answer is yes. They are interspersed from “Big Mouth Strikes Again” as the second song to show closer “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” (sold to us as the weirdest singalong ever). It’s nice that they’re threaded throughout the set instead of presented as a block or a treat in the encore after listening to Marr’s solo work. And while his is not the voice we associate with the Smiths, he does a pretty good Morrissey impression; his voice takes on a throatier quality for those songs. And after watching Marr mess with his tuning pegs for effect while playing “How Soon Is Now,” there’s no point in ever watching any other performer fumble their way through that song again. So good news for all you Smiths fans who cringe every time Morrissey speaks: We definitely don’t need him anymore.

LIVE REVIEW: LCD Soundsystem, Store Vega, 08.09.17

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LCD Soundsystem live in Copenhagen

It has been a topic of conversation for weeks, even months. LCD Soundsystem’s three night affair at Vega finally puts an end to one of the dullest summers in recent memory with an explosion of colour and disco-balls. Half an hour before the beginning of their Friday night set, those who attended the previous night’s concert are being eagerly quizzed about what songs to expect. The response is always the same: no matter what they play, expect one of the most fun shows you’ll see all year.

There’s a lot of fake outrage when a band reunites, a sense that they are desecrating their own past in order to satisfy their ego, wallet, or rapidly eroding sense of self. In the case of James Murphy and co, these concerns were laid to rest during their reunion tour last year, and the acclaim around their fourth album, American Dream, further cements the notion that they must just be physiologically incapable of producing anything bad.

You can see their painstaking attention to detail in almost any aspect of the evening. From the fact they begin at a chronometrically-precise 9pm, with drummer Pat Mahoney taking the beat from the end of Shit Robot’s DJ set, to the perfect oldies/newies balanced structure of setlist, the dedication LCD Soundsystem demonstrate in their live shows cannot fail but to engender fanatical devotion in the audience.

The enthusiasm starts on stage, in the way Murphy interacts with Mahoney during their percussion sessions, the general wine-swilling bonhomie of friends who have honed their enjoyment over two decades. With the kind of empathy for the audience that only comes from years of fandom, Murphy is almost apologetic for playing newer material, but he needn’t be, as a fair number are singing along word-for-word to new singles like Tonite and Call the Police. And realistically, any band who can dispense with their most well-known song ten minutes into their set has to be confident in the quantity and quality of their output.

Towards the end of the evening, the Friday after-work booze-up is starting to make its boisterous presence felt, with beer flying around the room during the breakdown of Dance Yrself Clean (the irony is not lost on me or my Tuborg-drenched shirt). But there is also some time for subtlety, a much appreciated addition being the presence of Gavin Russom at the centre of the stage, producing some fantastic drones from the middle of her fort of modular synths.

“We will now play three songs. Then we will go downstairs, come back, and play four more songs.” It sounds parodic but this is more or less how James Murphy speaks, with a refreshing absence of any bullshit. Sentimentality is something you’ll have to inject into the songs yourself, but as the boards creek under the weight of All My Friends, it looks like most people here don’t have much trouble with that.

LIVE REVIEW: The Kills, Store Vega, 09.06.2017

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The Kills live at Vega in Copenhagen

There was a time when being the cool kids from East London would have gotten a band some mileage, but that time was at least a decade ago. Thank goodness that the Kills, as they continue to soldier on, have long since given up on that schtick.

If anything, the energy of the pair is the standout of their show at Store Vega. They manage to take up a lot of space as only two people, and Alison Mosshart in particular doesn’t stop moving for a hot minute. She’s forever throwing her body around and flinging her hair in a way that would have put the entire grunge era to shame. In between songs, she paces around in circles like a caged animal as though she needs to keep herself moving so she can physically launch her body into the next one.

The Kills live at Vega in Copenhagen

Jamie Hince seems content to let her be the visual focus and spends the set is a continuation of guitar licks and swapped instruments. There are a few occasions where a song could have ended earlier, without Hince’s extended riffing after the rest of the band cut out, but these bleeds help prevent the dead air that would have ensued with their otherwise non-existent chatter.

The focus of the evening is on tracks from their latest album, last year’s Ash & Ice, and the enthusiasm for the new songs is as real as for the older tunes (even if pre-recorded strings for “Siberian Nights” just don’t have the same impact live). Though the album has it’s mellower moments, the live set was picked to be straight high energy. “Echo Home,” one of the more subdued new songs, ends up being much more energetic live thanks to a more pronounced backbeat provided by the backing band.

It’s this relentless energy, and the pleasure the band seems to take in their own music, that makes the evening so unexpectedly fun. It’s nice to see Hince and Mosshart crack smiles, and to see moments of genuine affection between the two of them. It’s a glimpse into the future for jaded indie rock kids everywhere: Careful or you may start enjoying yourselves.

LIVE REVIEW: Yann Tiersen, Store Vega, 28.09.2014

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Photos by James Hjertholm

Yann Tiersen is the curious sort of solo artist who doesn’t give the impression of being a solo artist. His live show, like his records, is often dominated by guest vocalists. He is very present in his performance, and yet watching him on stage at Vega, it would have been easy to forget that the gentleman at the piano or playing the violin was the one leading the band.

As Tiersen’s records are filled with guest vocalists, prerecorded vocals feature throughout the set. The show opens with Aidan Moffat’s disembodied brogue on “Meteorites,” though it’s disappointing when the former Arab Strap frontman doesn’t appear on stage when the rest of the band walks out.

Flanked by four other multi-instrumentalists, Tiersen and his band unceremoniously put down and pick up instruments throughout the set. There is so much equipment on the stage — previously meant to be crammed into Lille Vega — that it is a miracle that they can move so seamlessly, that they can move at all without tripping instruments or people.

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While there are classically influenced songs scattered throughout, the focus of the evening is far more on his electronically fleshed out songs. Synthesizer and marimbas in particular make up much of the texture of the songs, in addition to the more anticipated piano. The mostly respectful audience (who still ignore the request that photos not be taken) recognizes the melodica substituted in for accordion on “La Dispute,” featured on the Amélie soundtrack, and freaks out at what would probably have otherwise been a pretty mellow turn. But they are all quick to hush up in these few especially quiet moments.

For the few songs with live vocals, Tiersen doesn’t sing on his own, but instead allows his voice to be blotted out in harmonies — sometimes four vocals deep — from his backing band. When there are vocal solos, they’re provided by one of his sidemen. It allows Tiersen to take up his violin or to shift from his piano to a synthesizer or a guitar, and it speaks of an ear attuned to other musicians’ strengths. But it’s not the behavior you’d expect from a solo artist.

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LIVE REVIEW: Oh Land, Store Vega, 12.12.2013

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The second of Oh Land’s two homecoming shows is a jubilant evening. It’s the kind of evening where spirits are high and the audience can be encouraged to clap along — even to sing along — with minimal provocation from the artist. Everyone is just into it.

Even opening the show on a mellow note, sitting at the piano for “Cherry On Top,” is greeted with enthusiasm that’s equalled when she rolls into the more directly dancey “Pyromaniac”. That’s because Nanna Øland Fabricius herself is a performer in all of the best, most over-the-top senses. She’s the type who will thrash around behind her piano (or at least chair dance — everyone who has their headphones on while at work knows what I mean), throwing up her arms she’s going to do a trust fall with the same energy that she uses to bounce around the stage when not being the piano.

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She shows her vocal range often by stripping back arrangements for quiet intros that burst into rousing pop numbers, and with songs like “3 Chances,” performed primarily  with just her and guitar, allowing her to demure at the microphone. Her backing band can’t be undervalued either, not just as musicians, but also as vocalists — in particular, Katrine Enevoldsen matches Fabricius in strength, and the difference between having live backing vocals of that calibre versus a prerecorded track is huge.

Between songs, Fabricius is chatty, cracking jokes, teasing her American guitarist in Danish and then having to translate for him, and upping audience call and answers into elaborate, operatic scales. Nothing about Fabricius is too earnest, and that’s key. Even during her more serious songs, she still has a smile on her face, which is why she can pull off a lot of the hands-in-the-air, palms aloft moments. You readily believe that she’s just as cool as she is goofy. As a live performer, there’s more than one angle that she can play, in precisely the same way her songs span the sensitive and sweet to the straight up pop tunes.

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LIVE REVIEW: Trentemøller, Store Vega, 22.11.2013

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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.

Trentemøller (Photo by James Hjertholm)

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.

VIEW THE FULL LIVE GALLERY 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: Foals, Store Vega, 15.10.2013

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Foals are one of those bands that make sense live in a way they never could on their records. Not even on this year’s Mercury Prize-nominated Holy Fire, nor on 2010’s Mercury Prize-nominated Total Life Forever can this band be fully understood without seeing them perform.

A big part of it is the dimension of the music itself. Jimmy Smith’s spindly rhythm guitar weaves into Yannis Philippakis’ heavier leads with the same dynamic as on their albums, but any subtlety they strive for in the mixes on their recordings is lost to sheer power. The synths and backing vocals never fade into the background, the bass is more present than would be expected for a rock band, and Philippakis’ vocals regularly break into screams.

Foals (Photo by Tom Spray)

But mostly it’s the antics of their performance. It isn’t necessary to know their songs to enjoy yourself, because the human energy on and off stage is so easy to lose yourself in. Philippakis struts and pirouettes through every song, pouring water on his head between songs and flinging the remainder on the crowd. He’s matched by Smith’s relentless pogoing, and even drummer Jack Bevan can be seen standing triumphantly on top of his kit at any interval. And the crowd love it. They are dancing and jumping and willing to catch Philippakis on the multiple occasions that he crowd surfs. It’s telling that the band can bust out their single “My Number” early in the set instead of needing to build up to it in the encore.

Foals (Photo by Tom Spray)

But what they build up to is a finale of rock star antics that a man of lesser personality than Philippakis would struggle to pull off. Before “Electric Bloom” he passively suggests, “Let’s fuck this place up,” and then swaps his guitar for a floor tom, and unencumbered by an instrument or mic stand ricochets around the stage and audience. Back on stage for “Inhaler,” Philippakis’ intentions become clear when stares up agog at a stack of speakers. He restrains himself until the interlude of the final song, “Two Steps, Twice,” before scaling the stack, abandoning his guitar there, and then climbing up into the balcony. He takes the long route through the balcony to the other side of the stage, jumping down on to another stack of speakers and teasing the crowd before taking a final jump on stage. By the time he has his guitar back, a majority of the audience is crouched on their knees, ready to jump up as the final chorus comes in. It’s baffling and thrilling, and overwhelms in the best possible way.

Foals (Photo by Tom Spray)

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