Monday, January 22, 2007
Peter, Bjorn, and John, Paris 2007
By Essie Lash
Who: Peter Bjorn and John
At: La Maroquinerie
When: Saturday, January 13, 2007
The opportunity to see a great indie band after they’ve started to generate some global buzz, but before they’ve grown too big for their britches, is always an exciting one. Swedish trio Peter Bjorn and John’s energetic show at La Maroquinerie on January 13th provided an excellent mix of fan enthusiasm and the band’s own charm and talent, at their peak after their third album’s release (the first internationally) to wide acclaim last year. The basement venue was packed by the time Peter Bjorn and John took the stage after fellow Scandanavian openers Holiday for Strings started the evening off with an atmospheric, synth-y set. Decked out in collared shirts and jackets, the three-piece, comprised (appropriately) of Peter (Morén), Bjorn (Yttling, shown in medias rock, photo top left) and John (Eriksson), took to the stage.
“Let’s Call It Off” got the evening started on an energized note. Peter Bjorn and John is a fairly straightforward three-piece pop band, and “Let’s Call It Off” showcases some of their catchiest hooks and most successful rhythms. The song is an excellent example of the group’s ability to blend diverse influences, from Motown to a British Invasion sound, into catchy power pop. Attendees to the sold-out show were far from aloof, and right away took to dancing along with the exhaustive set, which was an excellent collection of the best songs off last year’s Writer’s Block as well as several tunes from the group’s older work.
Morén, responsible for vocals, guitar and banter with the crowd, introduced the set in French, reading earnestly from small cue cards. The crowd seemed to love this gesture, as well as Morén’s assertion that they were “better than Berlin!” during a singalong to the group’s older song “Big Black Coffin,” (off of Falling Out) and was (not surprisingly) pleased by the group’s performance of “Paris 2004” as well, an upbeat pop song about, appropriately, being young and in love and in Paris. Yttling took care of bass with excellent stage presence, but Eriksson, situated center stage at the drums, proved to be the band’s secret weapon. Much of PB&J’s signature sound, especially on Writer’s Block, comes from the layering of harmonies, whistles, beats and claps on many of their tracks. Eriksson, much more than a drummer (on the band’s site, the description of his musical duties ends with an “etc.”), was responsible for much of these fuller sounds. At any given moment, he could be found whistling or crooning into the mic with a faraway, eerie voice that makes the band’s songs as interesting as they are simple.
Peter Bjorn and John took some new liberties in their performance of their hits as well, however. A highlight was the group’s stripped-down performance of “Amsterdam”, whose album version features a distinctive, driving backbeat and John’s signature whistling. Tonight, Morén’s acoustic guitar strumming stood in for the beat, and Yttling gave a focused performance of the song’s lyrics. For five minutes, the very “up” crowd gave the stage their full attention, and dancing took a backseat to sheer appreciation. Peter Bjorn and John adapted their well-known hit “Young Folks” for the Maroquinerie as well. The catchy pop song usually features a duet between frontman Morén and vocalist Victoria Bergsman (formerly of the Concretes), but in Bergsman’s absence on Saturday, Morén gave the song his all, losing none of the sweetness of the original and actually adding to its danceable appeal. Near the end of Peter Bjorn & John’s satisfying set came “Up Against the Wall,” a highlight on Writer’s Block and at the Maroquinerie show as well, which the band extended well beyond its album length of seven minutes, complete with shakers and frantically energized electric guitar solos.
Since so much of Peter Bjorn and John’s album content speaks to the appeal of travel and the allure of foreign cities (Amsterdam, Paris 2004), their current world tour is doubtless exciting for the three members themselves. But riding on such perfect pop mixed with such infecting live energy, this world introduction to Peter Bjorn and John on tour is a treat for audiences as well.