Blonde Redhead have an interesting connection to Reykjavík’s indie scene. Having developed an ardent local following trough the years, this visit marked the trio’s fifth concert trip to Iceland (quite a feat for a foreign band) since they first graced our stages in 2000. Furthermore, Icelandic composer/bassist Skúli Sverrisson used to play with them in their early days—the influences they exchanged remain audible, while both parties have developed their own, distinctive sound.
Appropriately, Skúli opened the concert, accompanied with a band (ok, a supergroup). The performance was elegant and relaxed, well befitting of Skúli’s otherworldly music. For the final song, “Sería,” from Skúli’s self-titled debut, the headliners’ Amadeo Pace (who co-wrote it with Skúli) joined the stage. This proved a fitting end to the opening act of a concert that seemed to place as much importance on the bond of friendship between the performers as on the music itself.
After a short interval, Blonde Redhead took the stage and immediately launched into the opening notes of “Barragán,” the opening and title track of their new album, swiftly following it up with “Lady M,” the album’s second track. From thereon, the band surfed through the entirety of their lush catalogue, regularly throwing in songs from their latest.
Blonde Redhead played well from the very first note, and the sound was good enough to properly enjoy the fact. Delivering a tight and convincing set, they rarely paused between songs, serving up one favourite after another. As the programme evolved, the songs got louder, and the band’s enjoyment became more pronounced as the crowd began dancing, everyone clearly having a blast.
Halfway through the set’s purported closing song, “24,” it became apparent that the audience was far from done with Blonde Redhead. As the tune wound down, the crowd’s rapturous applause only grew louder, occasionally breaking out in “ENCORE!” type screams.
Returned to the stage, singer/guitarist Kazu Makino made a short speech expressing the band’s gratitude for being able to return to Iceland, after playing a rather disastrous concert here seven years ago. She then solemnly thanked Skúli for his continued friendship, before launching into Blonde Redhead playing a bunch more rock n’ roll.
Having seen Blonde Redhead perform here in Iceland fourteen years ago, listened to some of their albums in the meantime, and then attending this concert to renew our acquaintance, I was delighted to observe how they have evolved from simply being “a good band” into a far better one. As instrumentalists, brothers Amadeo and Simone Pace both spectacularly engage their instrument in a very personal fashion, while Makino adds a certain mystery to the affair, her black hair covering her face as she belts out Blonde Redhead classics in a high-pitched voice. The band’s charm is undeniable.
To this day, Iceland’s Baby Boomer contingent continues to meet at Kringlukráin to take in cover bands performing the hits of their youth. Meanwhile, Reykjavík’s punk generation remains dedicated to the acts they loved as teenagers. Naturally, Blonde Redhead at Gamla Bíó clearly felt like a sort of mini-revival for those who partook in Reykjavík’s indie rock scene in the 90s—my own generation. Over the course of the show, I recognised several familiar faces from dank, legendary concerts at venues like MH College’s Norðurkjallarinn, older, perhaps wiser, all there to enjoy the music they have loved since their teens—and enjoy they did.