Friday, February 19, 2010

Sondre Lerche @ The Varsity

Sondre Lerche came to Minneapolis on Wednesday and performed at the Varsity Theater, which has undergone some remodeling recently and become an even more lovely venue. Sondre himself said that the Varsity had been on his wishlist since he played there two years ago; it was so beautiful that, coupled with the beautiful faces of his fans, he didn't know where to look while playing. "Good thing I play most of my songs with my eyes closed," he chuckled.

Sondre's choice for opener was Jesse Merchant, aka JBM, a one-man band whose melodic guitar playing echoes the sounds of Erik Mongrain. JBM played mostly on acoustic guitar, opening with Years/Cleo's Song, but switched to electric and simultaneous drums, impressively keeping an interesting beat while picking the guitar for "Winter Ghosts." For his set, JBM played slow-burning atmospheric ballad jams with a peaceful crooning finish, but you could tell that despite the delicately beautiful pieces that enticed serene images of mountains and crisp cool air, the audience wanted something to bob their heads along to. Nevertheless, opening acts are chosen because the headliner thinks they need to get the word out, and JBM is a fantastical ambient acoustic artist. One listen to his daytrotter session should be enough to convince you.

Stepping on the stage straight out of 1982 came Sondre Lerche, decked out in a jean jacket, acid wash jeans and black moon boots. Animated and dripping with charisma, Sondre started things off with "Good Luck," and then electrified the energy with a swankier "Airport Taxi Reception" than the recorded version I was used to hearing. Live performances of Sondre makes me wonder what he is better at - singing or rocking the hell out of the guitar. With each familiar song, I found myself pleasantly surprised at how Sondre had changed and re-interpreted the melodies, changing the chord progression just slightly here or plucking dramatically there, creating a fresh recipe out of an old favorite for me to sink my teeth into. For a prime example of this, check out his performance of "Two Way Monologue" (I highly recommend the last two minutes):

The entire evening continued to be a joy, with Sondre not only charming all with his talent but also with his friendly talkative nature. The audience felt comfortable asking Sondre questions throughout the concert - during one cute moment in particular, a girl wearing a bracelet that had belonged to her grandmother inquired if Sondre knew what the Norwegian words that were inscribed in it meant. Sondre, with no hesitation, asked to see the bracelet and told her "Well, this word is lil' - not 'little', but 'lil'. L-i-l ping! ...Like lil' Kim or lil' John," which garnered smiles and chuckles from the room.

For most of the concert, Sondre sang in full, with eyes tightly shut and blond bangs being flipped every which way as his vocals soared. For the encore, Sondre had JBM come back out and join him for "Phantom Punch" and told the crowd to "feel free to bounce and do stuff that you do in clubs on a Saturday night after midnight," which the audience gladly did. Closing on duet "Mother Nature," Sondre simply allowed the crowd to sing Lillian Samdal's part and the result was overwhelmingly female voices full of swoon, no doubt belonging to girls with stars in their eyes from it all. Contrary to the upbeat trotting nature of the original number, Sondre let it trail off to a slower, softer means of a goodbye, with the whole audience singing the last the last sentence about four times acapella, giving the evening a nice eased closure.

All in all, it was a delightful night. Sondre is more impressive live than he comes across in recordings. He not only does he feel the music with his heart and body, he flirts with it, and by doing so, makes for a great performance.

Good Luck
Airport Taxi Reception
I Guess It's Gonna Rain Today
Two Way Monologue
Heartbeat Radio
Happy Birthday Girl
Dead Passengers
My Hands Are Shaking
Stupid Memory
Easy to Persuade
Words & Music
Sleep on Needles
Phantom Punch
Modern Nature

More Photos:
Sondre Concert

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is one of the better articles reviewing a Sondre concert I've had the pleasure to read. The writer "gets it".