It's funny; I am not one to believe jinxes, curses and all that fooey. But before this gig, a friend of mine told me that he had heard that Peter, Bjorn & John were rubbish live. I didn't think much of it. After all, the album 'Writer's Block' (their third but provisionally 'our' first) was a big success over here and not without merit. Each of the tracks on it was fantastic. Each had their own little whistling riff or soaring vocals or nice little tingling guitar. I felt assured that their responsible song writing would stand for itself and not let anything stand in the way of relaying it so, despite this 'supposed' lack of charisma/stage presence my friend was pressing at.
Well, it has been very sunny over here for once. Dublin almost seems happier. The Liffey has started to stink so that's a good sign I suppose of the Summer lying ahead. I spent my time before the gig predictably drinking cans on the grass in Trinity. All very typical of broke students, etc. It had been what seemed like a long time since I had been to a gig. But it had in fact been only a week since I saw DJ Flip (world scratch champion AND he's Irish) and two to three months since I saw Grandmaster Flash doing his monstrous three hour set in exactly where I was headed for this gig, Tripod. As venues go in Dublin, it's relatively new and small. It was a promising idea when first constructed, bringing with it notions (and nothing else) of cool, trendy bands from all over. But in my estimation and the opinions of others, it has failed on several levels to do this. Sure, a few skinny, tight trousered Razorlight-like bands had crept through and a few hip-hop artists, but nothing wayward. Tripod got a very preppy name almost immediately which drove me crazy. It simply meant that a lot of rich kids ploughed along to these gigs, always late, never really appreciating the artist at hand and quite often than not, standing chatting constantly waiting for that one 'hit' song they heard on the radio and downloaded the next day (which in this case was the whistle fantastic 'Young Folks'). Not that there is anything wrong with downloading, but I had the entire album, which I had listened to repeatedly. It's amazing. The best Swedish 60's kitsch-pop/Beach Boys-type romanticism I could ever have hope for.
I paid little attention to the supporting band, aiming my body in the direction of the bar but a friend of mine pulled me out to have a look at the ridiculous band on-stage. They went by the REALLY COOL postmodernist name of Neosupervital (they are NEO, they are SUPER and boy are they VITAL). Their music was as painful as their title suggests. It was all VERY 'nouveau-cuisine' (more on this term next month) and new and edgy and electro, blah blah blah. Similar in vein to the Klaxons (yawn!) or a bad Human League imitation or a really really crap Suicide (who are amazing.I'm not being sarcastic here). They have that rubbish 'Rachel' tune about her being a 'surfer girl' and riding boards, showering the song with phallic symbolism. Anyway, there are four of them. They stand in a row like robots, with suits and SHADES on. I KID YOU NOT. One of the women plays bass which is fine but she's no Kim, any Kim in fact, Deal or Gordon. Their songs crunch along painfully and the male keyboardist on the end tries to up the already lacklustre tempo by flailing his arms in what seemed like some crazed nazi-like wave while trying to circulate an invisible hulla-hoop around his waist. Oh dear.Check them out on youtube.
So, cutting to the chase; did Peter, Bjorn and John sink or swim? Well, they sank a little but Peter threw a gigantic lifesaving raft out to them and they all climbed aboard. Well, Peter and Bjorn did. John never turned up. Missed his flight. So, straight away, it meant no percussion and no drumming. Great. Overall, the remaining members, all two, pulled it off. You did however miss the percussion on 'Young Folks' and they were saved, only just, on 'Up Against the Wall' by a drum-machine. Peter, the hero, did the main vocals and guitar. His abilities as leader and performer were par-to-non. He was an excellent front man on any and all levels. Sadly for Bjorn, his moment of solo fame was shot down when he had to sing and forget the lyrics to the only song he sings on the album, 'Amsterdam.' This had been the ONE song we had been humming/whistling ALL day. Then he screwed up a keyboard solo. GGRRRR!!! We'll forgive Bjorn though; he did a lot of drunken manic grinning which was funny enough. But if it happens again...
Depsite all this, the gig was worth every penny (17euro). As I imagined, songs like 'Paris' 'Start to Melt' 'Lets Call it off' 'Objects of my affection' and (from their second album; Falling Out) 'Far away, by my Side' could not be touched in terms of those dripping hooks and THAT voice. No hard feelings in the end. It is a pity Bjorn was so wrecked but that's what rock and roll is meant to be all about I guess. Maybe John was backstage all along? Overdosing on cough mixture or gagging on pills? Passed out from rough auto-asphyxiation and a few gins? Who knows...I still like Sweden, enough to see these chaps again and I'm hoping that this Peter realises a solo album. Fingers crossed.