What was supposed to be an anal, sharp and critical review of Botnleðja’s first comeback show at Gaukurinn quickly turned into an open fan letter. You object? That’s probably because you just don’t get it. And I’ll spare you the history lesson. Just be aware that this country’s love of rock trio Botnleðja is not to be played down. The same goes for the group’s constant, enduring influence over Icelandic rock music ever since they won Músíktilraunir (Battle Of The Bands) in 1995. Everyone has a Botnleðja story to tell. The band has been present in one form or another during a lot of our lives’ pivotal moments. At any given day, you can find the most unlikely of heads willing to debate which of their albums is the best one, or which of their songs is the most excellent one. Their crossover appeal was, and still is, immense. At this show in question, I wasn’t really surprised seeing 38-year- old punks-turned-businessmen getting their rock on alongside twenty-year-old art-students-in-a-band. There’s something to be said about that.
Anticipating a late night and a long set from Botnleðja, I opted to skip openers Nolo and gorge on anti-aging powder at home instead. As the originally announced Saturday comeback show quickly sold out, Friday night’s bash was a ‘second show’ and turned out to be not as packed to the rafters. The turnout was still great, and in hindsight I am glad I didn’t go to the sold-out one, because I soon found myself engaging in shenanigans reminiscent of what my friends and I pulled at Botnleðja concerts in the mid and late ‘90s. Those moves would have definitely been harder to pull off in a packed Gaukurinn, where one couldn’t move.
An epic set—too many hits to mention
Without warning, like the ‘90s never happened, we were singing along, jumping up and down, drooling over everyone and trying to sneak in some crowd-surfing. Such is the power and nostalgic magic of Botnleðja’s music. Mugs and bottles got broken, and at some point an idiot pulled out his rotten penis in front of the stage and proceeded to urinate on the floor. That son-of-a-turd-bucket got thrown out. Fucker.
Highlights included hearing ‘Óbyggilegi heimur’ again and going mental as a result and ‘Rassgata 51’ (Botnleðja’s meanest song), when ex-members KGB and media personality Andri Freyr Viðarsson got on stage to give it that extra oomph and grit. People lost their shit.
Fuck it. The band played a set of 31 songs. Bloody hell! I cannot review shit like that. Was the show too long? Sure. Did I give a shit? No. Not a single shit was given. Everything you needed was there. Even dumb numbers like ‘Húsi.’ Bass player Raggi carelessly swayed and stumbled like his vintage self all the while nailing some of the best bass licks ever recorded. Drummer Halli took it upon himself to engage the crowd with words and contorted facial expressions. Beat-wise he was on point.
Guitarist/vocalist Heiðar seemed a bit subdued. Maybe he was too busy anchoring everything with the instantly recognisable and classic riffs. His voice in top shape, reserving energy was maybe wise. But sod it. He can easily afford a bit of recklessness, ’cause rarely has Iceland seen a band so subconsciously and instinctually in sync. The unspoken connection, man. That was one of their calling cards since the band’s inception and still is. Tight? Tight like a bumblebee’s ass, son.
Back to the future
When asked to compare this show to the era when the band was active, Halli had this to say: “We still feel the same things when on stage. But we didn’t play much material from the first two albums during the latter-day era. Back then we wanted to play new material but when so much time has passed we’ve grown to appreciate the oldest material more and that’s actually more fun to play. The difference is that tonight we are more comfortable performing and sharing all the stuff compiled through the years. The crowd is and reacts almost exactly the same after all this time. But I was surprised seeing a lot of young faces. Tonight’s audience emitted a great atmosphere, which energised and encouraged us.”