Show Review: Architecture in Helsinki with Hooray For Earth at Great American Music Hall, 6/2/2011

by Gordon Elgart on June 4, 2011

Architecture in Helsinki is an unfortunately named band. Whenever I tell people about them, the response I hear has something to do with traveling in Europe. I have to explain that, no, they’re a fun, synth heavy band from Australia. Or more recently, since I’m going to Finland this summer, they’ll think I’m mentioning the architecture in Helsinki, for real. I can’t imagine what they go through. Apart from answering questions about their band name (which they’ve had for years — get over it already), they also come to San Francisco to play shows, including this week at Great American Music Hall.

Hooray For Earth, current buzz band, opened. They have an interesting sound, like a dark synth fueled rock and roll adventure, but for the most part I found them unremarkable. There were two songs in the middle of their set that featured very little synth and instead had a driving beatĀ reminiscentĀ of the best of 70s rock, and these were by far my favorite part of the set. Other than that, I thought that this is the kind of band with a lot of potential that needs to work on their songwriting chops. Album three would be good, but we’re in an era of instant decision-making on bands, so I worry about whether they’ll get there. I’ll be looking to check in on them again in a few years.

Too early to make a judgment

Architecture in Helsinki came on stage like a blast of 80s. And not in the 80s you think of — Duran Duran, Flock of Seagulls, etc. — but in the 80s no one ever talks about … the late 80s. The two frontmen were decked out in white t-shirts with white pants, their hair held high. Kellie Sutherland dances like a modern day Belinda Carlisle. There’s a guitar with no head unit, day-glo shoes, and color-matched synthesizers. Some of my musical tasting notes included Roxette and “Twist of Fate” by Olivia Newton John. For the record, this is awesome.

What amazed me most of all about the performance was the quality of the vocal performances. Simply put, they were perfect. Everyone who got the chance to sing sang beautifully well, perfectly in tune, easy to hear, full of energy.

The stage was full of motion, even throwing in some choreography here and there. The non-lead-singing keyboard player guy danced around like a madman. He’s the kind of guy my girl friends who get crushes on guys in bands would love. I’d even tell you his name if I knew it, but I’m not that kind of reviewer. Instead, you’ll get a picture (he’s the 4th guy from the left).

There was the sense of running out of steam late in the show for me. Maybe because the set was longer than I expected, maybe because the setlist was front-loaded with my favorites, but the encore brought it all back swimmingly well, featuring a fun cover of London Beat’s “I’ve Been Thinking About You.” (Not quite late 80s, but early 90s. Same thing, right?)

 

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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