The Vintage Caravan

support Black Mirrors
author AP date 01/05/19 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

After some downtime in order to gather my thoughts and reenergise after another overload of live music at the 2019 edition of Roadburn Festival, it was time to get back on the review horse, with the Icelandic ‘70s rock revivalists The Vintage Caravan beckoning their fans to a headlining concert at Copenhagen venue Pumpehuset on this windy and cold Wednesday evening. I arrive at the venue to find, to my surprise, that the show will be taking place in the smaller downstairs room and even that is far from sold out. The band has such a strong connection to Denmark, having been based in Sønderborg for quite some time, that the only explanations might be the May 01st celebrations taking place around the city simultaneously or simply the fact that it has been too long since the trio last played a headlining concert here.

All photos courtesy of Stefan Bruse thor Straten

Black Mirrors

In charge of opening the proceedings is the Brussels-based quartet Black Mirrors, whose support set had the honour of being recommended by the Belgian embassy in Copenhagen. It is not often that rock bands garner this kind of support, so admittedly it is with a certain degree of excitement that I have been anticipating their performance here. Donning a shamanic poncho and what looks like Native American face paint, vocalist Marcella Di Troia cuts a striking figure on stage, and she backs up the aesthetic by singing an epic hymn in falsetto as the intro to her band’s set. It is hard to know what to expect from the rest of the concert then, but the answer is delivered promptly and with some force in the shape of “Günther Kimmich” (taken from their 2018 début “Look into the Black Mirror”). The contrast to the soulful intro is stark: the heavy groove of this classic rock track sends Di Troia into a witchy dance, while guitarist Pierre Lateur and especially bassist Löic Videtta wildly rock out on her flanks — the latter even in spite of wearing a knee brace on his left leg. Both the following “Funky Queen” and “The Mess” (off the band’s 2017 EP “Funky Queen”) keep the high level of energy flowing, and soon it has infected the frontmost portion of the crowd, too, inspiring ranks of people to headbang and react to the quartet’s efforts with loud applause and cheering in between the songs.

Di Troia and her companions seem genuinely taken aback by the welcome, and they take a well-deserved breathing break from the madness by performing slow and blues-ridden “Inner Reality” next, both divulging some Spaghetti Western influences and really shining a light on their front-woman’s singing abilities. She has a huge gospel-like voice not unlike Elin Larsson of Blues Pills, but she also masters the softer, longing howls that these moodier tracks demand, and as a result, listening to her singing is an experience in its own right. But as already hinted at in the previous paragraph, and as the next (brand new) song “Heart in Trouble” again shows, she is a captivating performer as well, never shying away from an opportunity to thrash around maniacally when her colleagues bring crushingly heavy riffs in the likes of “Lay My Burden Down” and the MC5 cover “Kick Out the Jams”, or jam out in instrumental segments as in the final track “Burning Warriors”. It all winds down with the same, folksy melody as in the intro to bring this invigorating display of classic rock revivalism full-circle and leave us all eagerly awaiting the next opportunity to watch this Belgian four-piece live again.

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The Vintage Caravan

The Icelandic headlining trio has a lot to live up to when they casually stride onto the stage some 20 minutes later, looking every bit as ‘70s in their clothing style as their music demands — think silk shirts with leopard or flower print, tight pants and leather boots. When the concert kicks off with “Reflections” (taken from the band’s 2018 album “Gateways”), the first thing I notice is the incredible amount of patina on frontman Óskar Logi’s Telecaster, including faded bloodstains. All of this reminds me that Logi is no stranger to letting loose on stage, and when the guitar solo arrives near the end of the track, he puts on one of his customarily passionate displays of acting out and miming the tune. Yet during the likes of “Set Your Sights” and “Babylon” after, I cannot help but notice how laid back the ‘Caravan’s attitude is tonight, with the three musicians coming across more as old friends at a reunion than a band with something to prove. This is odd because right after these two songs have been aired, Logi asks the audience whether any of us have seen The Vintage Caravan before and only a few hands go up. Certainly after the riveting performance by Black Mirrors, the efforts of Logi and his two cohorts — bassist Alexander Örn and drummer Stefán Ari — feel a bit too relaxed to provide me with the same adrenaline rush as at Roadburn Festival in 2016.

Once those two songs have been cleared out of the way, the trio tones it down a bit for a moody ballad: “Innerverse” off 2015’s “Arrival” LP. The song is accompanied by appropriately dimmed lighting and gives us a sample of Logi’s singing abilities, his smoky voice harmonising perfectly with the blues licks dripping from his guitar. It also makes me wish that Logi and Örn steered clear of banter in between the songs and allowed the intense atmosphere of their music to keep the audience captive — especially because the humour these two young gentlemen try to woo us with is worse than my dad’s at family gatherings. At the very best, they have me laughing at the band and at the worst, rolling my eyes and facepalming — and usually I love dry jokes of the dad kind. Fortunately, these snippets die down fairly quickly as Logi & Örn realise they have no future in comedy and the show can then proceed with more groovy rock’n’roll discharges like “On the Run” and “Expand Your Mind” (the latter featuring on the group’s 2014 début “Voyage”). Unfortunately, the audience never really seems to get onboard with the proceedings, preferring the usual stance of crossed arms and subtly nodding your head to the rhythm to letting go of some energy.

Logi tries everything to engage the audience with crazy antics and even a bout of impromptu solo action in the lead-up to “Cocaine Sally”, but it is a lost cause when faced with people for whom the weekend still seems pretty far away. This lack of a strong connection between audience and band means that the show is missing that final edge to really stand out, though I must commend the trio for handing out some goodies in the end, returning not once but twice after an encore to give “Craving” (taken from “Arrival) and “Hidden Streams” (off “Gateways”) their tour débuts after requests from members of the crowd. Despite not bringing their A-game tonight then, this gesture does at the very least prove that The Vintage Caravan are keenly aware of the special connection they have to Denmark and that they are willing to go the extra mile to ensure that their fans here get an experience that is a little more exclusive than what you would get from them in other countries (except their native Iceland of course).

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Setlist:

  • 01. Reflections
  • 02. Set Your Sights
  • 03. Babylon
  • 04. Innerverse
  • 05. Crazy Horses
  • 06. Let Me Be
  • 07. Reset
  • 08. On the Run
  • 09. Expand Your Mind
  • 10. Cocaine Sally
  • 11. Farewell
  • 12. Last Day of Light
  • 13. Midnight Meditation

— Encore —

  • 14. Craving

— Encore II —

  • 15. Hidden Streams

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