This evening Lára Rúnars gives the sense of a pop star ‘dressed down’ with a loose fitting dress and brandishing a bottle of beer. It feels good to have a native star on this large stage in a beautiful venue and she is engaging to watch. This is one of the first times that her band are playing new material that inhabits the uncomfortable territory between rock and pop, at times sounding (and looking) like Gwen Stefani. There are three backing singers and on the last song they literally let their hair down and begin headbanging wildly – it’s lots of fun.
Jamie N Commons from the UK has an amazing soul blues voice and a dominating presence that belies his youth, bringing up comparisons to Ry Cooder, Neil Young and Springsteen. But can he have the life experience to go with the voice and these tales of disappointments and arduous journeys? Between songs, he mentions that the band have been to the Penis Museum. I temporarily think that ‘the penis museum” would be a good alternative name for this band of young men acting like old timers. It’s when he speaks there’s a slight ‘wtf’ – it’s an English home counties’ accent by way of Graceland. This only adds to suspicion of a lack of integrity but it does not completely mar an atmospheric performance.
As temperatures outside Harpa plunge below freezing, a warm atmosphere develops inside during popular local band Dikta‘s set. They play expansive, inclusive rock and many of the crowd know the singalong chorus: “thank you for the world, thank-you for the light inside of me” – lyrics just vague enough to mean whatever you want them to. I want to call them the Icelandic Coldplay – melodic, killer songs in English sung by a sensitive frontman. They are a well-oiled machine. Last song ‘Just Getting Started’ is joyous and piano-led, sounding like a lost Ben Fold Five number. The singer and guitarist play the keyboard together, ruffling each other’s hair – good vibes all round.
Bloodgroup have been promoted to play Harpa from Deutche Bar, to replace US act Purity Ring who had been moved to the Art Museum to play instead of Polica, who decided to bail last week so they could get on Jools Holland. But are they are worthy replacement? When they come on, including hooded figure and eerie electronic beats, I immediately think ‘The Knife’ – who, although brilliant, are an all-too-common influence point at the moment. However, for the second song, the hood comes down, and a keytar comes out along with some onstage pogoing and it all goes a bit ravey. I like it. This attempt to bump things up from ‘haunting’ to ‘banging’ is to be commended. The female singer, when she lets go, is wonderful, with an uninhibited voice that I can only compare to (sorry) Björk. I want to put these slightly druggy tunes on my car stereo as I drive north out of Reykjavík looking for the northern lights.
Iceland current biggest music export Of Monsters and Men play to a full, expectant room. They have a proper show, with introduction music and choreographed glitter tape blown out into the audience. They are a cute motley crew, eight people onstage in all and present a folky gang – some kind of woodland utopia which is a bit sugary for me but certainly has popular appeal – even getting them as far as the MTV Awards. Quite a few of their songs follow the same formula of a fragile chorus resolved by a healing communal chorus and when they finally play the latest single ‘Little Talks’ I feel like we’ve already heard it. The singalong la la choruses are irresistible as is a trumpet solo and even a bloody accordion. This is a homecoming and a celebration of their success – good work gang.
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