Friday, November 05, 2004

Sondre Lerche

Fantastic show at the Double Door on Wednesday night. I'm really glad we decided not to ditch it just because we were so depressed. The finest indie-pop music Norway has to offer is apparently the perfect thing for the post-election blues.

Sondre Lerche (whose last name is pronounced "lair-key" and not "lairsh," the way I'd been saying it) is actually even more talented than his CDs reveal. His freakishly golden vocal intonation was perhaps matched in impressiveness only by his freakishly golden skin tone. (The kid looks like he's made of marzipan.) He played solo for the majority of the set, accompanying himself on electric guitar, and then, showing an exquisite sense of control over the evening's pace, brought openers (and friends) The Golden Republic back out to rock with him on the last three or four numbers of the night.

Lerche's tunes are so durable, they stood up brilliantly to all the stripped-down revamping he subjected them to, and he managed to do it without making the show feel like you were listening to some kid practicing in his bedroom. They've got a real jazz standards feel to them. He was (can I say audacious?) audacious in his use of dynamics, and we were positively hanging on every pianissimo, every sforzando. It almost felt like the show should have been booked at the Green Mill, there was such a cabaret sensibility in his performance--right down to his a cappella rendition of "Moonlight Becomes You" and his charming and witty between-song banter. Until, of course, they blew the roof off the place with balls-out rock versions of "Sleep on Needles" and "Virtue and Wine" (the latter of which he described as being "the wonderful world of bossa nova meets the wonderful world of punk").

OK, now that we've established that Lerche is truly a musical force to be reckoned with, let's talk about The Golden Republic.

They're about an album's worth of material away from being a pretty great band. But they're not there yet. Which is why you tour as an opening act, you know? It's practice. M.O. and I were counting the number of times that lead singer Ben Grimes must have been making mental notes about the relative success of his one-liners, monologues, and other shtick. (We imagined him thinking, "Note to self: that didn't work.") He seems like one of those guys who, among his intimate acquaintances, is probably pee-your-pants funny, but he hasn't quite been able to translate that to the stage yet. Part of the problem was the way his bandmates kind of left him out to dry whenever he got stuck in the corner of an attempted joke and couldn't manuever a three-point turn out of it. He faired much better trading quips with Lerche. In fact, one of the best exchanges of the night came after Lerche gave The Golden Republic a really impressive compliment; he said that he'd never found the right band to pull off the bossa nova meets punk sound of "Virtue and Wine" until he started working with these guys. Grimes picked that up and ran with it, saying, "Oh yes, I started taking bossa nova and punk lessons at a very young age. I came by it naturally. My mother was Brazilian, and my father was ... punk?" It was the biggest laugh he got all night. ("Note to self: that one worked.")

At any rate, that, my friends, is what I want out of a rock 'n' roll show. Intimate, energetic, goofy, surprising, imperfect, and paced within an inch of its life.

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