Thursday, May 12, 2011

Peter Bjorn and John win three thumbs up from Vancouver

Bachelorette started the sold-out night at Vancouver's Venue nightclub with some minimal homemade electro folk, which sounded like it would have been almost relaxing to listen to on record. Her stage setup, however, was poorly calculated. Either I'm getting old, or it was just too LOUD. Everything—beats and vocals—were overdriven and overcompressed, far beyond the “we're too loud because we think people like hearing damage” level. It sounded like it was intended to give the audience a mass aneurysm. I didn't set up the sound equipment at Venue tonight, so I can't direct blame, but it wasn't the soundman. He's the usual awesome guy who does the sound at Venue, and PB&J sounded great. However, to give her some credit, Bachelorette does sound good on record. I just checked out her song “Blanket” and it sounds great. Have a listen:

MP3: Bachelorette - Blanket (YSI)

Peter Bjorn and John took the stage, after a lengthy dramatic intro of a catchy instrumental beat that I couldn't identify, leading off the night with “May Seem Macabre”, a song I seem to have overlooked on their new album Gimme Some. I've always been only a casual PB&J fan, and I always thought of them as an indie pop band, but “Macabre” made it instantly clear that they are more of a rock band that happens to have delightful pop tendencies, probably stemming from their Swedish roots. Everything that comes out of Sweden seems to have a deliciously glistening pop quality to it. From the very beginning with ABBA to today's Swedish scene that includes the likes of Robyn, Lykke Li and The Tallest Man on Earth, they all have roots in their own given genres, but they all have this undeniable quality that gives their music a different kind of "catchiness" and makes them sound a little happier and content than the rest of the world's musicians. It makes me think of Sweden as an isolated land of enchantment and fantasy.

The boys made it clear from the start that they are not a regular rock band, though. Sure, they have wailing riffs, heroic guitar moves, and a ridiculous "theme" of nonconformity (Peter suited up, Bjorn wore leather and John dressed like a homeless), but while exuding an energetic, larger-than-Sweden stage presence, they looked way too happy to be just a rock band. They pushed through a slew of fan favourites, mostly off the new album and the previous, Living Things. They hit most of my favourites, including “It Don't Move Me”, “Tomorrow Has to Wait” and “Second Chance”, but then they started throwing in some more rock-oriented songs, a few that got a lot more close-your-eyes-and-feel-it shoegazing than I expected. They closed the set on one of the reverberating dramatic numbers, “I Know You Don't Love Me”, but it was far from the end.

They left the stage, and the crowds cheers rose and fell in waves for a few minutes while the guitar tech retuned Peter's guitar, making it obvious that they weren't finished. Peter rambled back on stage, harmonica and microphone cupped with both hands over his mouth. This was the first we'd seen of his harmonica, so the crowd went wild when they realised he was playing an all-new harmonica version of “Nothing to Worry About”. Bjorn and John joined him on stage, then Peter decided to join the crowd, grabbing my shoulder for support as he hopped off stage left. He made his way through the crowd, tangling his microphone cord all over the audience while everyone joined him on the chorus of “Doing this thing, this type of thing, put a little money in this type of thing, I got nothing to worry about!” The boys went for the extra-large encore, with another 3 songs after “Nothing to Worry About”, then left the stage once again.

The audience was bewildered when the lights didn't come back on and the tech came back on stage to retune again, but who wasn't down for more? The waves of cheers began again, eventually bringing the band back on stage for a second encore. They started with “Stay This Way”, an odd number off their previous album. Then, Peter began whistling a familiar tune that brought the audience to an instant roar. The song from countless television programs and adverts, the song that brought the art of whistling back into the international spotlight: “Young Folks”, the biggest hit of their career. Instead of playing their hit song like a repetitive chore, they went all in. Peter rejoined the audience while Bjorn and John backed him up from the stage, and by the end of the song, even the soundman was applauding. They finished with one more song, “Lies”, to come down and wrap up the show.

I already loved Peter Bjorn and John, going into this show, but there is so much more to this band than I ever knew. Three thumbs up.

MP3: Peter Bjorn and John - Second Chance (YSI)

Lead single off the new album, Gimme Some

MP3: Peter Bjorn and John - Nothing to Worry About (Van Hammer Remix) (YSI)
Funky disco remix of the lead single off their previous album, Living Things

Peter Bjorn and John are promoting their new album Gimme Some (highly recommended!) on the final West Coast leg of their tour, after which they head back home to Europe to hit up the summer festivals!


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