Agent Fresco

support Ciccone Ritchie
author HES date 18/12/15 venue Beta, Copenhagen, DEN

In the wake of the release of their 2nd album "Destrier" Iceland's Agent Fresco has completely sold out the small venue of Beta in Copenhagen. The show is the band’s first sold out show outside their home country, and the venue is already buzzing an hour and a half before the band’s long-awaited return to Denmark, their half-way home turf due to singer Arnór Arnarson's background here. But before them a local band has been given the daunting task of "warming up" a crowd that already seems more than warm enough for the main act to once again grace us with their company.

Ciccone Ritchie

The last time I was in the company of Ciccone Ritchie it was a mixed experience. As many rock bands are, Ciccone Ritchie is outwardly defined by their characteristic front man, vocalist Bjarke Madsbøll. In the last situation I saw the band Madsbøll was suffering a cold and it left the band in a tough situation. To my relief Madsbøll is in his prime tonight, delivering both a safe falsetto and folk-ish modulations over the backdrop of hard, dark, gloomy rock.

Ciccone Ritchie

But the coast is not clear yet. The decent performance of all musicians in the band actually makes other issues very apparent: First off it is very difficult to figure out what the band wants stylistically - the music clearly has rock elements from both metal, punk and even folk rock. Secondly and more damaging, the melodic compositions leave much to be desired. Take most of the chorus-compositions which somehow modulate downwards, comprised of minor constellations, giving the soundscape an enormous excess weight. It gives the live audience very few hooks to hang on to, leaving them with very few modes of interaction with the band. And that is very sad, because after seeing the band tonight I am no longer doubting their technical abilities.

Agent Fresco

Painfully missed this band has been, since I saw them last in 2012 - a show that in many ways secured the band one of very rarely allotted places in my heart, which are usually reserved for bands I have been listening to for way longer. Their debut "A Long Time Listening" is by now a cult classic among an ever-growing number of people in Copenhagen, as the ticket sales for tonight have thoroughly confirmed. This tour comes in support of the release of the band’s second full-length "Destrier" which, if you ask me, is not only one of the best releases of 2015, but the best.

It is safe to say that the small capacity of Beta is adding to the boiling tension in the room, but the anticipation is almost manifesting itself in the air that seems heavier than just a few minutes ago. The band unceremoniously enter the stage and throw two of the biggest songs from their debut towards the crowd; "Anemoi" and "He Is Listening", and the crowd catches every word as they direct them back towards the stage with blatant disregard for social restraint. Where both crowds and bands can battle with elusive layers of caution, it is apparent two bars of circular piano strings into the "Anemoi", that there is no such thing present tonight.

Ciccone Ritchie

While feedback of the audience on these tracks is somewhat forecastable, it is the reception of the newer tracks "Pyre" and my personal favourite "Howls" which surprises me the most. The first few seconds into a new track must be nerve-racking as a band as the setlist probably comprises of around 50% new tracks and if they are not received well by the audience, it can ruin the entire dynamic of a show. Luckily, the response is overwhelmingly similar throughout all tracks tonight: It is obvious that the dedication to the new songs is just as great as to the old "hits".

In between songs, Arnarson is the perfect example of interaction with his audience. There is no doubt that the absence of an aforementioned veil of restraint also makes for a more intimate show, as Arnarson shares personal background stories to some of the tracks. A big part of this background is the story of how Arnarson’s father passed as he wrote the lyrics for the debut album, reaching an emotional crescendo towards the end of the show in the form of the frantic, rhythmic and melodically sublime "Eyes Of A Cloudcatcher", that manages to both serve up teary eyes and violent moshing in the same span of around five minutes.

As for Arnarson’s vocals, I will forever be short on superlatives to describe the qualities of not only his recorded singing, but certainly and maybe even more his live vocal work. I mention how the songs are often very emotional, but instead of hindering his vocal abilities, it gives them even more grace and air. He swiftly changes between his characteristic falsetto, his base tone and frantic screams as he paces from one end of the stage to the other.

What sets some of the newer tracks apart from the old, is an addition of more rhythmic compositions that once again showcases the abilities of the band’s drummer Hrafnkell Örn Guðjónsson and adds a sensual momentum to songs like "The Autumn Red", "Pyre" and "Wait For Me". The latter suffers a tiny amount from guitarist/pianist Þórarinn Guðnason having to divide his attention between piano and guitar - a prioritization that robs the song of a playful guitar-refrain and a bit of the cohesion of the soundscape. Mid-show the piano is accused of being "haunted" as it is slightly out of tune, but in the heat of the moment, it is nothing we’d ever notice, if the band did not point it out.

Overall, in spite of these minor, minor, minor missteps the band delivers exactly what I have come to expect from them: A genuinely solid musical experience, a technically fulfilling set, engaged crowds, sing-alongs on almost every track - but most of all this magical emotional catharsis that very few bands can deliver to their audience. It feels like taking a long, comforting shower - yet it challenges you to a couple of hours afterwards in pensive thoughts.

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