Kaizers Orchestra

support Bernhoft
author AP date 09/03/11 venue Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

Continuing on with a series of rehabilitating concerts featuring bands distant from metal and hardcore, the next in line was Norwegian gypsy/folk/rock ensemble Kaizers Orchestra. Having spent some time tending to personal matters while refraining from touring, the band's return to Danish soil came with the greatest of expectations and, judging from the ecstatic fans rammed into a sold-out Store Vega, blissful ignorance as to what constitutes a good show. For the band's dedicated followers any show was going to be a good show; yours truly retained a healthy amount of skepticism - and with good reason, as we shall see.


"I am support band", declares Oslo's singer/songwriter darling Jarle Bernhoft, as he sits down on a lone chair on stage besieged by microphones. His introduction is no exaggeration; armed only with an acoustic guitar and an array of pedals, he sounds like a full band. This is of course enabled by his extensive use of loops that allow him to dynamically and seamlessly record percussion (by beatboxing, tapping on the body of his guitar and stomping the ground), backing vocals, and rhythm and lead guitar and then carry on with just one of these channels to make songs that - even with my scrutinous opposition to James Blunt - sound golden. Indeed, it is tempting to draw parallels between the two based on their vocals, but Bernhoft's nerdy quirkiness combined with copious amounts of self-irony ensures his music remains comfortably separable from the sickening melodrama of Mr. Blunt. Others have aptly described Bernhoft as a tasteful mix of soul, funk and pop, referencing artists as diverse as Stevie Wonder, Justin Timberlake and Jack Johnson, and indeed, this is probably the closest you will come to pigeon-holing the man with any sort of accuracy. But most impressive is Bernhoft's ability to engage, and connect with, the audience, despite the obvious limitations of performing solo. The sold-out venue is enamored from the get go and greets every song (even the strange cover of Tears For Fears' "Shout") with tremendous applause. Bernhoft might as well have been the headliner, as we shall see.

Kaizers Orchestra

For some inexplicable reason Kaizers Orchestra have an enormous following in Denmark despite singing in Norwegian and stemming, musically speaking, from the Balkans. Like Gogol Bordello, the sextet deal in gypsy punk, folk music and alternative rock, discounting the horn instruments. Personally my experience with the band is nil, but if the reputation that precedes them is more than fan-whipped hype, then I should prepare to be blown off my feet. But without further ado I can report that my feet remain solid on the ground throughout the long-winding set; clearly the few years' pause from touring has done its harm. It's not that Kaizers Orchestra are not enthusiastic about this first stop on their comeback tour - it's that music seems to have been reduced to an afterthought, with the primary focus shifted to show with a huge S. Indeed, there are theatrics a-plenty in the reductionist brown/yellow lighting, lounge decorations and gasmask wearing pump organist Helge Risa, not to mention in the furious pounding of oil barrels with baseball bats. But spending over fifteen minutes on introducing each looney in the band and allowing one of them to perform a prolonged (and meticulously rehearsed, by the looks of it) bass solo in celebration of his birthday is overkill in my book, and it results in a rapid decay of the jubilant mood that has otherwise governed the audience tonight.

That said, for a Kaizers Orchestra newbie such as myself the musical treasure chest that is the band's repertoire is both thrilling and endearing, and I find myself sneaking in a couple of subtle dance moves entirely involuntarily. Even our regular metal/hardcore aficionado photographer voices her appreciation of the flamboyant tunes and defies her illness to stay and watch a little more before heading home to convalesce. Unfortunately some of the new material from the band's actual album "Violeta Violeta, vol. 1" lacks the fabulous Balkan joy and chaos of older songs, putting a damper on things following an energetic start, coming across as regular radio rock next to the highly angular songs "Ompa Til Du Dør", "Maestro" and "Bøn Fra Helvete". As a result the overall atmosphere and level of energy clocks in at slightly above average and denis me the triumphant experience I had been looking forward to.


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