This evening with Sondre Lerche and friends reminded me about why I go to shows. The right performer can take their music and twist it just the right amount to bring you something new and dynamic with their live show. Sondre Lerche, with his sweet pop/rock sounds on record will rock the hell out of you live; jumping around and playing his guitar hard. It is unexpected and quite punk rock of him. Add to that a great accompanying band and his intricate melodies and you get a show to remember.
The first opener, Kishi Bashi, started his set with just a violin; looping the tracks to make some crazy orchestral noise (well, quite melodic noise). It was fun and interesting and I was enjoying it quite a bit but then he dropped some of the looped tracks making the music a little simpler and started to sing (while still playing the violin). If I was a cartoon character my jaw would have dropped. His voice was beautiful and the vocal melody weaving in and out of the violin lines was wonderful. He finished the song to incredible applause, especially considering his time slot and relative anonymity (though he plays violin with Of Montreal). The next song was a similar format, this time looping vocal tracks until it was insane then dropping some tracks and going into another great song. He used a guitar, drum pad, violin and his voice to make varied and well textured music. In the middle of the set he announced he was selling some four song EPs but was almost sold out. We found out later, when Kishi Bashi was back on stage accompanying Sondre Lerche, that he did sell out.
The next band, Nightlands, was a folky five piece led by who we were fronted by the bassist playing in Sondre Lerche’s band. I liked that both openers were members of his touring band. It was a great example of the comraderie apparent on stage. Nightlands was a solid band of talented musicians, but they just didn’t have that spark for me, the melodies just didn’t hook me in. They did have some great things about them though. For one, their tight four part harmonies, particularly notable in that one of the guitarists did the falsetto soprano, barbershop quartet style, and the female keyboardist took the alto. It kept the sound fresh and interesting and was a wise choice. For their last song Sondre Lerche came on stage a sang a couple verses and his touring drummer, David Heilman, played some tambourine and back up vocals. Heilman was goofing off trying to make everyone laugh and he ended up stealing the show a little. Which I can’t say I was unhappy about.
When Sondre Lerche came on stage he was electric. With all the antics and great music that had happened so far, it is a testament to his showmanship and stage presence that he instantly took command of the stage. I have to admit, I barely took my eyes off him, even though his band was full of excellent and interesting musicians. He opened with two songs off the new album and still held the rapt attention of the audience. He talks to the audience a lot and after the first two songs he said it was time for some old favorites and played some older material, which the crowd seemed happy about, though there wasn’t much singing along, just quiet attention.
He played about half of his new self-titled album. The highlight for me being “Go Right Ahead” which has a subtle twisted dissonance on record that got brought a notch up in the live performance. It was almost violent and quite intense and wonderful. My other favourite was the full band version of “Heartbeat Radio.” Sondre Lerche gave a little speech about how he usually plays it solo, but was trying something new and wasn’t sure if we would like it. Well, I loved it, if that counts for anything. For everyone else though, the musical highlight seemed to be the encore, when Sondre came out on stage by himself and played “Modern Nature” with the audience loudly singing the duet parts.
With all the great music, the best part was still all the personal touches in between songs. These are the moments that really keep you engaged and create a personal touch. A long discussion about twitter, and a war between bandmates was fun, and stories and comments on songs added just that extra little bit to make it a great show. Sondre Lerche does everything right. He is full of energy, tells good stories, and makes his music sound even better live. That’s really all you need to know.