Sunday, May 13, 2007

Concert Review: Peter, Bjorn and John w/ Fujiya & Miyagi

I was a latecomer to the Peter Bjorn and John bandwagon; all the buzz they were getting somewhat turned me off, and I wasn't sure I really needed to hear yet another Swedish pop band. But when they booked a show at the Empty Bottle, I figured it was time to finally check them out; with all the attention they've been getting lately (and considering the amount of airplay "Young Folks" has been getting on on commercial radio and Verizon commercials), I knew that by this time next year they'd be headlining the Metro or even the Riviera, and I didn't want to regret missing them at the Bottle down the road.

Fujiya and Miyagi, meanwhile, has been a pretty constant presence on my headphones; their brand of funky, danceable kraut-rock is a welcome addition to my dance music collection, and I was thrilled that they were opening for PB&J. The three unassuming Brits came out a bit timidly on opener "Ankle Injuries," but seemed to gain confidence and stage presence as the show went on and the band got into the groove. Singer David Best rarely cracked a smile as his breathy vocals drifted over the crowd, but he did show off his smooth dance moves (I especially enjoyed his hip-shaking during the lyrics "Thigh bone's connected to the hip bone"). Speaking of their single "Collarbone," it was definitely the highlight of their set and drew the most enthusiasm from the crowd. Not surprising, because it's a killer song and definitely their best.

Having picked up Writer's Block only a few weeks before the show, I found myself enjoying the music, but not blown away by any means. Luckily, PB&J's live show definitely made me return to the recorded material with renewed interest. The Swedish threesome definitely brought some serious energy and passion to the stage, especially singer/guitarist Peter Moren; his exuberance and presence were a pleasure to watch. The band mixed in some older songs amongst the best tracks of Writer's Block; they also put a new spin on a few songs, including a folkier, slower version of "Amsterdam" that was interesting to hear. Meanwhile, early show opener Au Revoir Simone's Heather D'Angelo took the place of Victoria Bergsman during "Young Folks" and hammed it up with Peter during their musical call and response.

Occasionally things bordered on cutesy, such as the fact that certain items on stage were labeled ("Peter Bjorn and John Bass Amp", "Peter Bjorn and John Bass Drum") or when Peter introduced "Paris 2004" as a true story of a perfect holiday weekend he had, and suddenly lyrics like "I'm all about her / She's all about me / We're all about each other" became a little overkill. But overall, PB&J rocked a lot harder than I would have expected them too, especially during songs like "Object of My Affection" and the excellent show closer, "Up Against the Wall," which led Peter to jump on top of an amp and finish the show from there. Ideally the show would have ended on that high note, but the band came out for an unremarkable (and surprisingly slow) encore that included "Poor Cow", one of my least favorite songs from Writer's Block. Still, I thought they put on a great show overall and was very glad I decided to go.

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