Someone find Retro Stefson a cruise ship to rock! The set by Icelandic collective – whose members included two backup dancers, a woman wearing (and playing) a keyboard, a guest percussionist, and a hype man who ended up shirtless — was one long emceed dance party, with frontman Unnsteinn Manúel Stefánsson commanding the several-hundred-strong crowd to get down like he was some kind of good-time drill instructor.
The gig jumped all over. There were two bass solos, a congas solo, a drum solo, one segment where Unnsteinn encouraged everyone to cram to the back of the venue, another where he encouraged everyone to throw their shirts on stage (a few obliged), yet another where he told the crowd to sit down. You half expected him to break into a game of Simon Says. As spectacle, Retro Stefson were somewhat effective; the crowd was mostly into it. Musically, they were no great shakes. Unnsteinn has charisma and a strong pop-smoothie voice, but I couldn’t help thinking that a few more actual songs (I’m told the band has several good ones) would have made all the fun-fun-fun exhortations go down easier.
Scottish art-pop eccentrics Django Django were a late cancellation, so Denmark’s Rangleklods stepped in. Singer-DJ Esben Andersen is possessed of full-bodied baritone that evokes Labyrinth-era David Bowie or a more suave, less dead Ian Curtis. His songs were dark and sexy but not exactly special; the set was stronger when he and his keyboard-playing female partner focused more on rocking bodies than playing tunes. Midway through, the pair kicked up big, meaty modern techno beats full of warped sound effects; it was a welcome intensity that had nothing to do with than channeling their innermost thoughts feelings. Most memorable (not to say admirable) line: “I only do girls I just barely like.”
Gus Gus taught me something I wasn’t particularly happy to learn: Drunken d-bags who slam into you at a concert without a second thought are universal. Not the fault of Gus Gus, of course. The very polished set by the veteran Icelandic band evoked the glory days of Nineties Eurohouse, complete with two soulful, big-voiced singers (a guest lady appeared late in the show). As with Rangleklods, the show was better when the vocalists took five and let the beatmakers take over; well-sung though they were, their tunes felt too much like standard fare. Never a huge fan of the kind of club styles Gus Gus favor (and also dead sober), I got a bit bored. But who’s a rock critic to argue with a room full of shaking asses?
Nota bene: One slightly annoying crowd doesn’t change my feelings for you, Reykjavík. Thanks for taking good care of me yet again. Bro-hug –> full-on hug.
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