Peter Bjorn and John

Thursday, 08 February 2007

Depending on what your expectations are from a live band these days, you would have left the Roxy Theater either completely thrilled by the performance from Sweden’s Peter Bjorn and John or slightly disappointed with the fact that they didn’t sound exactly like the record and that they’re using a backing track/triggered samples during their “big song” and elsewhere.

With the set opener, “Let’s Call it Off.” from of their third album Writer’s Block, it was immediately apparent that they would not sound “just like the record.” Instead they would deliver a concisely orchestrated set of music based on guitar, bass and drums with a genuine enthusiasm that would surpass any amount of studio production with its simple charm. Remember, it’s a live show in a small club with only a few hundred lucky folks in attendance. Also know that this is the same stage I witnessed the Sugarcubes perform on in support of their Life’s Too Good album way back when and that that one sounded amazing too. But that’s another story.

Set highlights on this night included: “The Chills” with a few extra measures of surprise guitar-riffing that is nowhere to be found on the album; “Amsterdam,” which quite possibly made more sense in this live setting in its sparseness for the emptiness it conveyed (muted drums, guitar and Bjorn on vocals for the first half of the song before he picked up the bass again for the finish); and set-closer “Up Against The Wall,” which found its way to a ripping finish amidst a snare drum switch mid-song (I think the head split) with that infectious beat rolling, breaking and ripping alternately all the way through. Of course, I must also mention the appearance of the beautiful Victoria Bergsman as the featured vocalist on “Young Folks,” which found Peter with a shaker—sans guitar—and John helping out with the whistle via a drum pad to (most) everyone’s delight. I was certainly smiling.

For the encore they pulled songs less familiar to most, including “Far Away, By My Side” from Falling Out and “Collect. Select. Reflect.” from their self-titled debut, to close it on subtle, if not sentimental note.

With several upcoming dates in Australia and a couple of nights in Japan, PB&J are sure to bring a surprise or two to a city near you soon. Also, look for them at Coachella along with the ex-lead singer of that little band from Iceland.

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