Daði Freyr, Icelandic underdog of Eurovision renown, took Dublin by storm with a two night engagement. The baby faced baritone crooner became a viral sensation with his breakout hit “Think About Things” in 2020, and cemented himself in hearts and minds of Europe and beyond with his performance of “10 Years” in a much awaited return to live events the following year. From the 8-bit jumper iterations to the connecting circular keytars, Daði and co gave us the total retro-nerdy package in a franchise experiencing a resounding revival amongst the younger generations. It was a classic case of the right place at the right time.
While twelve points are nice, there’s no doubt that any artist would want to rise above the fifteen minute effect of a music contest. Daði’s song may have failed to clinch the win, but he may have pulled off an even more impressive feat: sticking around! Shedding the bright and colourful trappings (but doubling down on the fun) Daði Freyr has proved his staying power, putting out new binge-worthy singles and embarking on major touring across the UK & Europe this month and the ‘Fabulous, Wonderful & Nice Tour’ in North America later this year. There is so much more to the indie pop maverick than a catchy beat and dance craze choreography, as he has set off to show the world with his stripped back ensemble. Real heart and songwriting ability lies below the surface, as was proved at this evening’s performance.
Liverpool-based newcomer Mickey Callisto opened up the show decisively with “This Is The Real World”, a song about over privileged students who don’t know what they’ve got. The man came in hot with revved up, over the top synth and all the confident flair of your local karaoke joint’s star kid. The cheesy machismo in his energetic dance moves thrashing in a powder blue jumpsuit and his unflinching eye contact during his first tune embodied the very definition of what a warm up act should be. I doubt the harshest critic in the crowd failed to crack a smile at the man’s beaty exertions across every inch of the front stage.
Melting into an 80s inspired power ballad, I detected a minor cult following in the crowd as lads sang along to the emotional flurrying of the tune. Mickey’s unflinching bravado underpinned with a deep flowing sense of comedic timing surely picked up a few more fans this evening. Treating us to his first single “Destructive Love” Callisto beamed pure joy and unbridled confidence as he hammered the funky keys, air thrusting, making love to the keyboard. His strutting and posing stance possessed by the ghost of Freddy Mercury, to say nothing of his eerily familiar operatic vocals.
Callisto clearly lives for live performance and was in his happy place during his short set, whipping the crowd up with conducting gestures, model poses and pouts, doing push-ups and spanking his butt. Reinforcing his overall vibe of being unapologetically you and taking no prisoners, he launched into unreleased track “Welcome to Homospace” (yes, you heard that right) an instant anthem that got the whole crowd singing along in the space of 3 minutes. His final ballad had phones waving in the air and going wild–Mickey could teach a masterclass on how to achieve complete audience participation in a room of total strangers.
You would be hard-pressed to find a night out more infused with happiness than this gig, I found myself thinking after the opener’s joyous expression, and knowing how much Daði Freyr music is equally such a stronghold for positivity and light on the scene. The room was electric as he took to the stage with his two bandmates, percussionist Ylva Øyen and guitarist Pétur Karl. Having since forked off from his Eurovision posse consisting of his beloved wife Árný Fjóla, sister and close friends Daði has been pushing the boundaries of perfecting the pop song into play with other sounds. The trio took their stance at a sleek set up of interconnected drum machines, percussive instruments, synthesizers and other instruments waiting in the wings.
Daði wasted no time bringing the love to the ornate auditorium, saying “Hi” and “Hello” in his signature baritone as he addressed everyone from the boxes to the upper tiers. Clearly delighted to find himself in Dublin, he joked that “splitting the G” on a pint of Guinness was a tradition when he plays a gig in Ireland (having only played here once before yesterday night) as he took a hefty swig on his beer. “This is what it’s all about tonight. There will be some music, but mostly G-splitting,” he joked in his charming accent before launching into a humble and sincere “Thank You”, the perfect way to start the show for the big-hearted musician. His silky smooth voice rang out beautifully in the building bop with a hip swivel.
Making fast friends with the crowd with good-natured goofball humour, Daði treated us to his unique brand of stage banter between each song, a candid sort of stream of consciousness. This sense of humour bled through to songs like “Shut Up” in which he singled out audience members by pointing at them and staring unflinchingly as he performed the pastiche of telling them to shut up repeatedly to their face. Just to be sure everyone was in on the joke, he explained that the song was about telling the voices in your head to shut up in moments of self-doubt.
His unique POV drips from his persona into his songs, all the more exemplified by tracks like “Where We Wanna Be”, inspired by surviving the isolation of the first covid lockdown. Rounded out by the live drumming and scrubbing Daft Punk-style guitaring of in-the-pocket guitarist Karl who grooved energetically in his skinny jeans throughout. Peppering in tunes throughout the setlist in their native Icelandic from earlier days, the band transcended any language barriers with their funky lines and complexly layered interludes. Daði Freyr is uncompromising in his commitment to quirk, from unisonly wielded shakers, to free-wheeling scatting and lank limbs flailing, but had grown with this lineup into a well rounded act. The musician proved his mettle on stage as a multi-instrumentalist, picking up the bass for some song and showing a commanding prowess of his various synthesizers, piecing everything together live on the spot (a far-cry from Eurovision standards!)
Amidst a stream of cool electric originals, Daði announced that if we were interested in “going bananas” at any point during the evening that this next song would be the chance to do so. The last thing I expected to hear was a turbo-charged rendition of the scourge of the wedding circuit, the Chicken Dance! His digital arrangement of the corny polka classic was a bizarre banger, familiar yet uncanny enough to take down everyone’s guard, creepily drawing out organ strains on the verse and jumping to hyperspeed in the hand-clapping chorus. If this wasn’t enough, the group treated us to another synthed up version of an iconic classic in it’s own rights, Smashmouth’s “All Star” during which the crowd was absolutely bursting. Between this and his little games with the audience, getting them to repeat increasingly stranger sounds and words as the night went on, you could tell he was having just as much fun as we were.
The good vibes just kept on rolling as some of his bigger songs came out in the latter part of the show. Ylva Øyen, who had been jumping up and down smashing drums and cymbals on beat all night long, stepped out from behind the rig to beautifully belt feelgood bop “Feel the Love”, needlessly nervous to take her moment in the spotlight. The fun calypso rhythm of “Sabada” rang through with its warming message of inclusivity as rainbow colours flashed on the tubular lighting rig and Daði posed and pouted across the front of the stage, reaching out to fans in the front row. The beyond-catchy “10 Years”, a sweet homage to his relationship with his wife, had the whole crowd belting, toe-tapping and bopping in unison.
Wrapping up the set was, of course, the one we’d all been waiting for. Daði played up the moment, prolonging the opening tone to “Think About Things” excruciatingly, blasting the chord on and off teasingly before launching into that deep sultry intro. The song took on a whole meaning for me when I only just now figured out that it was written for his newborn daughter and his response to becoming a dad, an incredibly adorable revelation that only endeared me further to the budding star. It was wonderful to hear technically excellent pop tune performed live by the group, an earworm that will live in infamy. The evening closed with a 2-song encore, led by a Boyzone cover. The crowd went wild for the Dublin-born boyband’s tune, and the thoughtful singer seems to be performing a new cover on each night of his tour to cater to local hometown heroes. The group concluded with upbeat “Endurtaka Mig”, which saw Ylva Øyen splitting speedy Icelandic verses. This served as a fitting finale to a night of positivity, humour and fantastically fun music that we didn’t want to end!
Thank You Where We Wanna Be Skiptir Ekki Máli Shut Up Kemur Þér Ekko Vló Clear My Head Fugladansinn Feel The Love Næsta Skref 10 Years Sabada All Star (Smash Mouth Cover) Somebody Else Now Think About Things —