by Jayson Harsin (also appears in Blogcritics Magazine)
It’s worth repeating that the best live concerts are often impressive visually as well as musically. This is certainly the case with the Franco-Finnish trio thedø, who played to a sold out audience at Paris’s La Maroquinerie club last night.
Thedø is actually a duo (Finnish Olivia B Merjlahti and French Dan Lévy), but live they add Jeremie Pontier on drums. The visual effect Pontier adds is mesmerizing. He is devoured by a monstrous metallic chandelier, a cross between a cage and the skeleton of a spaceship, perhaps something one enters to be beamed up. On the aluminum tubes that surround Pontier, hang a curious array of objects, from what appears to be a breastplate of Xena Warrior Princess, to wrenches, cooking pans, and the liberty bell. He played all of these during their set. Indeed, this drum set could, in time, go down as the most spectacular in the history of rock.
There’s something wonderfully incomparable about the live rock show's tradition that permits facial expression tacitly banned in everyday social situations: the beautiful ambiguity of a face that could be the sign of either a cutting appendicitis or a fantastic orgasm. Proof positive: lead singer Merjlahti, whose twisted face unleashed sweet and alternately baleful full notes, sometimes recalling Bjork and Joanna Newsom. She complained of the heat at one point during the show. It’s no wonder since her head was wrapped in what looked like a weasel wreath. She engaged the crowd with playful banter, clearly enjoying every second of her stage time.
Meanwhile sidekick Dan Lévy looked like a Geronimo imitator with his headband and black war paint. Merjilahti also went for a dab of face paint in the corners of her eyes. On the other hand, it was difficult to see drummer Pontier behind his shimmering silver set.
While they are a spectacular live band in the true sense of the word, thedø have been getting attention for their brand of recorded music. Unlike some bands that stop at great vocals and hooks, thedø combine sweet vocals, with mainly innovative folk pop sounds and smart lyrics full of half-rhymes. At times, there's a leisurely paced, full melodic sound strongly reminiscent of Luna (minus the world's most spectacular drum set). In addition to the unique percussion section, Dan Levy moves between a bass guitar, an organ, a xylophone, reindeer bells, and a melodica. The incorporation of a variety of instruments reminds one of creative counterparts like Calexico, Lambchop, and The Handsome Family. Other times their light and folkish sound recalling Smog can also turn on the rock. The result is a live music tour de force.
Thedø have been buzzing in France thanks to a major newspaper article last year in Le Monde and subsequently astounding myspace success. But it is only a matter of time before they conquer the rest of Europe and move on to America. The fact that Merjlahti sings almost entirely in English makes that migration a strong likelihood. Their first album A Mouthful will be released next month on Wagram Records. A band certainly to be heard first, and then, with a little luck, seen—thedø.