Friday, March 19, 2010

Show review: Choir of Young Believers @ Bootleg Theater, 3/12/10

I went to the Bootleg Theater to see Danish indie rockers Choir of Young Believers last Saturday night, mostly out of curiosity after reading a Rolling Stone review that compared them to "hearing Radiohead's Thom Yorke in the middle of a Sixties Roy Orbison single..." I was also curious about locals Great Northern, who've been recommended by friends in the past.

I arrived sometime in the final 3 songs of Great Northern's set and wasn't as impressed as I'd expected to be...kind of disappointing, but I'm going to chalk it up to the evening and still check out their recorded tunes. The psychedelic rock duo thing can be hit or miss sometimes.

Next, the Choir of Young Believers took the stage at 11:30 sharp, in a half-incarnation of the band's regular lineup which apparently is a septet at its full capacity. Tonight we were hanging with singer/songwriter Jannis Makrigiannis, cellist/backing vocalist Caecilie Trier, bassist Jakob Milung and drummer Casper Henning Hansen.

They played for a whole hour -- a perfect combination of lofty, soaring vocals (the Thom Yorke comparison is definitely not far off), dramatic songwriting and a faultless sound system. Each tune was slow and building, the cello and occasional synth riff creating the base atmosphere while the dapper Milung pulsed away in his skinny jeans and Hansen pounded the drums louder than everyone else played, though in a way that added much more than it detracted - no ten-minute drum solos here. Everything was reverb-drenched and really kind of beautiful in a Dark Side of the Moon way, or like Radiohead's "Lucky," always resolving nicely on one of Makrigiannis' guitar flourishes.

The latter isn't really big on stage banter, except for announcing how happy the band was to be in California. It didn't matter though; the music spoke for itself and the set was better as a free-flowing and uninterrupted piece of work, like a series of movements in a classical composition. The only qualms I had were that 1) I couldn't understand the lyrics if you offered me a million bucks and a trip to Paris, and 2) with the exception of maybe two or three songs, after awhile every one had the same slow, lilting tempo -- that is, until the final half of the set when Hansen broke out the maracas and laid down a tasteful little drum groove on the mid-toms, a nice little break in the mood.

Like everyone else who loves good music in America, Choir of Young Believers are eating BBQ and drinking beer in Austin this week. Check em out there before they cross the pond again.

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