NEW YORK, NY-When internationals successfully wow every member of a capacity crowd at a New York show, it’s something special. It’s even better when overseas acts manage to get every person inside a venue dancing, cheering and feeling so goddamn excited that the energy buzzing throughout the performance lingers long after the stage lights are turned off. When it came to the Swedish indie pop trio, Peter Björn And John’s gig at Webster Hall, it’s fair to say they created this exact sort of atmosphere.
The threesome, who reached mainstream chart success in 2006 for their single “Young Folks,” were, to put it simply, awesome. Having just hit the 10-year mark it’s incredibly satisfying to see these boys, and their experimental, eclectic, and heavily infectious pop, keep improving with age. While the trio’s been hit with plenty of one-hit-wonder criticisms over the years, their show went a long way in proving they’re a band with depth, attitude, experience and know-how. And they’re engaging entertainers who can’t be faulted when it comes to their delivery.
Lead singer Peter Morén constantly pranced around the stage, making grandiose gestures in an effort to infuse more life into their songs. He played right into the crowd’s hands, and became more uninhibited and reckless as the energy of the show built, even jumping into the crowd several times, rousing deafening screams, whistles, and cheers. Morén and bassist Björn Yttling continually rotated positions onstage to play different instruments and mix up their performance, and while their English wasn’t anywhere near perfect, it didn’t stop them from indulging fans in some endearing chit chat. “The next song is a song that we ripped off from The Sound Of Music but we never got sued. So it’s okay,” Yttling told the crowd. I mean, what other rock band would not only admit they were inspired by a Julie Andrews musical, but could successfully pull off a track that’s associated with the von Trapp family and make it incredibly cool. It’s an understatement to say these guys are simply talented. They’re creative, innovative, and fun. And that never gets tiring.
While “Young Folks” was probably the track highlight, “Lay It Down,” off their most recent delivery, Living Thing, was also a show winner. After all, with lyrics like “Hey, shut the fuck up boy/You are starting to piss me off,” it’s bound to make an entire venue go up in screams, right? But above all-beyond their stage show, and track order and wicked lighting-there was an overwhelming sense of togetherness, or camaraderie at this gig. Everyone seemed so happy to be watching and witnessing this band in action that everything else seemed trivial. “Who cares if a tall guy is blocking my vision?” or “I was in this line before you, but please, get your drink first. I insist.” Maybe it’s the Swede in them, maybe it’s the non-American element-I’m not sure what exactly gave this gig its huge atmospheric point of difference, but it was definitely there. Plus, the trio has a clear, unspoken synchronicity onstage, and a connection that resembles three siblings rather than three friends-and that’s always refreshing to see. They didn’t even need to glance or signal at each other, yet they all knew when to keep their performance restrained, and when to let go completely.
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the hundreds of thousands of U.S. artists in the scene today, and to forget to stop to check what else is out there. While you can surely find everything you need, plus more, in the States, it’s brilliant when a band like Peter, Björn And John comes along. They remind you that there’s a whole world of music out there, with plenty of killer bands that are guaranteed to not just hit the spot, but open your musical frame of reference just a little bit more. And I love that. Thanks guys.