I have been waiting for a little over a year for Icelandic rockers, Kaleo, to visit Vancouver.
They were out for the 2016 installment of Pemberton Music Festival but, alas, I was ill and couldn’t go.
Tuesday night I stepped into the Orpheum Theatre and a palpable excitement was in there.
I made my way to my seat and waited for American alternative band from Nashville, Tennessee, Judah & The Lion, to start things off. The group is an interesting mixture of several genres. The best way to describe them is part Mumford & Sons, part 21 Pilots, and part dancey alt-rock.
The lead singer did a fantastic job of igniting excitement with his charisma and fun-loving attitude. The band and he performed part of the “Single Ladies” dance by Beyoncé during their song “Booty Wurk”. The crowd loved it. As their set ran on, it grew exponentially in intensity. Soon their sound was bigger than the theater. It had turned from your typical opening band performance to highlighting the chops of a band that is ready to headline a major tour. Keep your eyes on this bunch, they are about to do great things.
After the briefest of intermissions, it was time for the headliner.
From the darkness, four silhouettes emerged and took their position.
A set of spotlights lit up the lead singer, JJ Julius Son, and after minimal chatter, the band started the night with “I Can’t Go On Without You” from their 2016 album A/B. The haunting vocals echoed through the venue.
Unlike the openers, Kaleo’s power came from a subtle yet passionate delivery. The capacity crowd sang along during the chorus, “We don’t want that/We don’t want that/We don’t want that/Oh no”. The harmonious reverb of the voices from the audience and the lead singer sent goosebumps down my arms.
The lighting was both minimal and rich. The band was backlit by an ever-changing palette of deep reds and blues. The backdrop was a reformation of the A/B cover art, with the bands name made much larger.
Rubin Pollock, the lead guitarist, spent most of his time in the shadows. His shy demeanor was overpowered by his monstrous fret work.
At one point during the set, the group covered Cher’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)”. Their rendition was quite affected by the original, with no huge variations but the power with which JJ sang the vocals seemed to reinvent the whole song. The crowd once again were enthralled.
After my long wait to see Kaleo live, I was really impressed. They were powerful and poised and confident and beautiful. The southern soul from which they derive their sound seems so natural to them.
I hope they come back really soon. I need more Kaleo in my life.
Setlist I Can’t Go On Without You Save Yourself Broken Bones Alter Ego Pour Sugar On Me Automobile All The Pretty Girls Hot Blood No Good Vor í Vaglaskógi Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) (Cher cover) Backdoor Way Down We Go Ladies Man