Hjálmar knows how to stir it up with drum-bumping moxie! The group best known for being the leading proponents of Icelandic reggae, performed a surprisingly pumpin’, highly raucous live set at NASA late Saturday night. Hjálmar cranked the amplifier up to 11 during their performance at NASA, in a departure from their smoother, mellower studio recordings, with a highly percussionally-intense jamboree – a decidedly hard-rock variation of their guitar-driven, Jamaican-derived music with an especially aggressive, sometimes jarring, slam-bam, drum-crash assault of raw energy and occasional rapping mixed in.
The bespectacled lead vocalist, Þorsteinn Einarsson, kicked the night off right with the warm, slow jam intro of “Hljóðlega af stað” which eventually wound itself into a spectacularly fierce pulsating groove. Hjálmar’s organist, Sigurður Guðmundsson, should be considered the group’s MVP of the night and especially be given his props as he pulled out all of the stops with a spirited funk that he laid down through most of the songs. Additionally, Guðmundsson must be given a hand for his adeptness at echoic, reverberational dub effects. On the other hand, the group’s drummer was so eye-bogglingly fired up (how many cans of Burn did he go through?!) through most of the set that his frenetic drum crashes often sounded like a long, harmonic carpet-bomb attack.
Performance-wise, Hjálmar was very much an audience-participation enhanced experience, especially with their passionately chipper fans. The group enthusiastically led the crowd to sing along and clap in unison with many of their anthemic choruses. This worked particularly effectively on the song “Leiðin okkar allra,” which I’ll go out on a limb and call Hjálmar’s “Hey Jude.” It was easily their best performance of the night and a song to raise a lighter to.
Overall, a rollicking good time was had by most of the crowd, at least, for the ones not too drum-adverse.
- THE VERDICT Slammin’ grooves with good dub, though maybe the drummer should take it down a notch.