Within minutes of taking the stage at Philadelphia’s Underground Arts this passed Thursday night (09-25-14) Sondre Lerche captivated the audience, infusing his trademark pop sensibilities with all of the energy and force of a jet engine. Over the course of seven studio albums, the Norwegian born, Brooklyn based musician has consistently impressed with his ability to seamlessly blend the vulnerable air of a thoughtful songwriter with the reckless abandon of a modern day rock and roll luminary. Appearing in Philadelphia two days after the release of his latest record, Please, Lerche’s invigorating set mirrored the ambitious nature and unusual trajectory of an increasingly varied recording career.
“This is going to sound really cocky and silly, but I found it really exciting to be somewhere where I wouldn’t constantly be reminded of who I was. The way my music came out, it was a mainstream success in a very small country. I always found it really nice and cool when I came here, to have a parallel life in America where I was more of an indie niche artist. I guess it sounds strange that you would sort of move to New York to get away from it all.” – Sondre Lerche, 2011
Despite relocating to the United States eight years ago, Sondre Lerche never left Norway completely. With a recent role as guest-judge on the country’s edition of The Voice and even his very own postage stamp, Lerche’s profile in his homeland is akin to a Beatle. But by enjoying a different way of life in the US, Lerche purposefully provided himself different opportunities and experiences that would fulfill a deepening need to be artistically challenged. Unburdening himself of any preconceived notions or expectations, the musician found himself creatively free to indulge an ever-evolving muse. And with the recent release of Please, he has entered an entirely new phase of his career, experimenting with an arsenal of sonic effects that highlight the record’s complexity and strangeness. Effectively walking a tight rope, Lerche combines the sweetened harmonies and refined essence of a classical production with the abstract leanings of an artist that’s dying to muddy the waters. This same vibrance and spirit has only enhanced Lerche’s performances, allowing him to showcase his range and versatility through a live set that sonically underlines a vast canon of work.
Throughout Thursday night’s show, Lerche, drummer Dave Heilman and bassist Chris Holm performed with vigor, lending muscle to the intricate arrangements that populated an expansive setlist. The song selection was nearly perfect, reflecting all of Lerche’s artistic incarnations without spending too much time on any specific era. Older songs like “Private Caller,” had a crispness and punch that elevated the energy in the room, prompting a sing-along that culminated in the audience echoing Lerche, his steady voice rising with every note. “Two Way Monologue,” took on a similar stripped down feel, though the song’s riff was significantly amplified by Heilman’s high-powered drumming and Lerche’s theatrical vocal.
Through the years, fan favorites like “Sleep On Needles” and “My Hands Are Shaking,” have become fixtures of the performers live set, as both compositions represent the pensive, mournful poetry of Lerche’s earliest work. “My Hands Are Shaking,” was especially powerful, reflecting the musicians ability to create a connection that virtually erases the physical separation and distance between the stage and the audience. Strumming the opening notes on his acoustic guitar, the venue’s colored lights dimmed until one single white spotlight fell on Lerche, suddenly alone after Heilman and Holm quickly exited the stage. Moving away from the microphone, he stepped forward to let his voice fill the room, positioning himself closer to the crowd as they softly sang along.
When it came time to play the new tracks, Lerche came alive in a way that articulated his utter excitement at being able to finally share this collection of songs. Performing the summer single “Bad Law,” he dropped his arms to his sides, his guitar hanging at his waist before pulling the microphone close, twisting his vocal into the gut-wrenching plea:
“When crimes are passionate, can love be separate?”
The song has a contagious, energizing pulse that reflects the record’s shifting mood and temperament. Later performances of “Legends” and “Lucifer,” were excellent, merging Lerche’s knack for tuneful melodies with the rhythmically diverse arrangements of Please. But it was the understated performance of the new song, “Lucky Guy” that made the most impact. It’s a song that lyrically and musically builds, characterized by a meandering vocal that conveys the mixed emotions that accompany a relationship’s decline. Accompanied by soft instrumentation and shrouded in blue light, Lerche sang:
“I am such a lucky guy to have meant the world to you
Held onto you, almost held my own
I am such a lucky guy to have seen the world through you
So hell bent out of shape tonight.”
It’s a touching song, highly symbolic of Lerche’s ability to seek new musical frontiers without betraying his character. And by combining the theater and spontaneity of a rock show with the musical flourishes of a seasoned composer, Lerche once again establishes himself as an artist that’s in a league of his own- untouchable and unwilling to play it safe.
Please is in stores now
Don’t miss your chance to see Sondre Lerche live this fall
Article by: Caitlin Phillips
If you enjoyed this article read more about Sondre Lerche’s newest album; Please.