Go Go Berlin

support Helmet Compass
author TL date 28/11/14 venue Lille Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

Heading to Lille Vega to see Go Go Berlin, it's hard not to think about how the retro-rockin', mainstream-breaking quintet from Aarhus are an anomaly in the Danish scene. It seems like the group skipped the underground band phase all together, coming out of nowhere to suddenly play at Roskilde, feature on advertisements in magazines and travel outside of our borders to play shows in Germany, India and the US. It's no wonder that such a sudden success has also sparked some suspicion in the otherwise normally rock-happy alternative circles, especially considering how shamelessly Go Go Berlin rob the cabinets of rock's classic names, employing their findings in pretenseless and immediately forthcoming songs. It has had no noteworthy impact on their momentum however, as this is their second show in Copenhagen in 2014, sizing up from the spring gig at Loppen to a now sold out Lille Vega, which buzzes with chatter from an audience diverse in age, yet fairly normal of appearance - Fortifying the impression that Go Go Berlin's appeal reaches out towards ordinary people, not just your typical rock fans that identify with one subculture or other.

All pictures courtesy of Stefan Straten

Helmet Compass

Before Go Go Berlin there is of course a support band, and tonight the honour befalls Helmet Compass, who are playing already as I enter at 20:45, a good fifteen minutes before they were billed, prompting one to hope that any fans of theirs arrived early just in case, lest they be disappointed with the band going off again already at 21:10. Not that they would be missing a particularly thrilling performance, as all but one member of the six person ensemble on stage are more or less rooted to the spot, while delivering songs that sound like fans of psychedelic Britrock like Oasis, Primal Scream or The Horrors spent too much time at Christiania, smoking up and getting overly fascinated with off beat and world rhythms. The group look the parts as well, all young guys whose appearances range from slacker, over hipster and into chav, and while their lead guitarist appears to be thoroughly enjoying himself - sending off a warm, positive vibe in the process - their singer looks half asleep, hands folded behind his back and gazing off into oblivion, again hinting that Oasis has probably been a bit too much of a source of inspiration here. His vocal melodies similarly flat as well, and endless, poppy repetition of a one-word refrain like "Beautiful" can at best be described as catchy in the most annoying way.

Occasionally the keyboardist gets in an encouraging fill, the vocal harmonies help when they boost the choruses, and the bongo-playing additional percussionist has some curious tropical influence on the rare occasions when you can hear him in the mix, but overall, the lazy mid-tempo songs largely feel like they're actively trying to sound like elevator music. The psychedelic tendencies aren't pursued into anything particularly immersive, and the group is much too passive as a unit to really engage anyone via their poppier, more danceable elements, as they hardly utter a word between songs and mainly look like the gig feels more like a chore than an opportunity to them. "I've got drugs in my pocket" they sing, and you think "You don't say?", while the band borrows heavily from "Sympathy For The Devil" in the end to one track. Maybe this kind of show would work better in front of friendly faces in a club full of weed smoke in the free city, but in front of a Friday night audience looking to get warmed up? That's one healthy cup of nope-uccino from over here.

Go Go Berlin

With Helmet Compass finishing so early, the crowd is faced with an unusually long, 50 minute changeover, which could potentially make for some salty impatience, but in reality people seem to enjoy themselves chattering while the anxiety builds over tunes like Band Of Skulls' "Devil Takes Care Of His Own", White Lies' "Death" and even Billy Idol's "Dancing With Myself". At 21:57 it is apparently deemed that all ticketholders have arrived, and lights dim while Go Go Berlin's shades appear to a backdrop of loud ambiance that leads into the guitar histrionics that commence "Gimme Your", and you would think that opening a concert with soloing would be a bad move, but in this case Go Go Berlin simply put across the message that regardless of their wide appeal, this is still going to be a rock show, and the audience seems unfazed, as if entirely aware of what they signed up for.

Despite sounding good off the bat, it takes a bit of gesticulating towards the sound desk before Vium and fellow guitarist Mikkel Dyrehave look entirely comfortable, yet from there and onwards the synergy between an inherently entertaining band and their eager audience only grows song by song. Dyrehave is spinning around, grinning to bassist Emil Rothmann like he still can't believe this is happening for God knows which night in a row for the successful band, while Vium moves about with the swagger of a young Steven Tyler on coke and the raspy lion's purr of a voice that makes him such a standout vocalist. The unreleased "Electric Lives" sounds uncharacteristically but awesomely punchy in the heavy marching section at its end, and soon and as the band gets on with tracks from their only album "New Gold", both "California Mind", "Castles Made Of Sand" and "Waste Of Trying" get the singalongs growing steadily in intensity, and particularly the intermediate of the three has the audience carrying the chorus onwards for a prolonged stretch where the band falls completely quiet.

Throughout the show, Vium becomes the catalyst for the kind of synergy you only have at really good shows, where he will command the audience to simply put their hands up, and for each time they comply or sing a chorus back, he gets more power in his demonstration of vintage rock'n'roll vocal power. Meanwhile, the band's timing and tightness are uncanny, as songs are prolonged, faded out and brought back with the touch of a band that should have way more experience than these cheeky twentysomethings should be able to muster. Vium is swaying, gesticulating with both arms and instrument, leaping off Christoffer Østergaard's drum platform at appropriate moments and on the backline Østergaard and keyboardist Anders Søndergaard's authoritative performances are not to be discounted, as the former is mainly responsible for the escalating potential when the band stages their explosive moments, and the later consistently keeps those 'Doors and The Who vibes coursing across the back of the band's soundscape.

Leading single "Raise Your Head" is of course aired, and not in lacklustre fashion, with its bridge also getting the effective heavy treatment similarly to "Electric Lives", and "Darkness" is every bit the dance party it sounds like on record. The only surprise of the evening comes when the band actually does end with an encore of "Shoot The Night" - foregoing their traditional closer "Bad" - but then they make the absolute most of it, playing most of the encore with the lights dimmed to a nocturnal blue with streaks of red, and breaking things down to get all of Lille Vega - wall to wall, front to bar, young to grown-up - to do the sit down/jump up routine. Even the chandeliers of Vega - which normally only light up when the show is over - are brought in flashing in the final romp, which sends a heated, exhilarated and thoroughly satisfied Vega audience out into the night. You can argue that the group's music lacks depth, sure, this shows in how people sing along smilingly, yet not like their lives depended on it as they would at some shows, but give Go Go Berlin a wall to play to and they will be solid - give them a full room of this size or bigger and they will be outstanding. In terms of rock'n'roll styled entertainment, Go Go Berlin are the genuine article.

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