Live Review: Peter Bjorn and John with El Perro del Mar at 9:30 Club, Washington DC – 07 November 2009

By on Monday, 9th November 2009 at 4:00 pm
 

If you have not heard ‘Young Folks’ by Peter Bjorn and John, you must be living under a rock. And even if you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m sure you’ve heard it even if you didn’t know whom it was by because ‘Young Folks’ was a top 20 hit on the UK singles chart 3 years ago. It begins with a snappy whistling intro that could be irritating I suppose if you’re not into that sort of thing. Me? I love it – the song rates on my top 5 songs that include whistling (which, incidentally, also includes Noah and the Whale‘s ‘Five Years Time’, the band I just happened to be covering the last time these Swedes were in town). Now in November 2009, these three blokes from Sweden are celebrating 10 years of soldiering on successfully in the music business with a festive, 12-date North American tour starting at Washington’s 9:30 Club this past Saturday night. The band is touring in support of their fifth album, ‘Living Thing’, released this past spring. (Little-known fact: ‘Living Thing’ is also the title of an ELO track, ELO being a favourite band of Peter Morén‘s during his childhood.) Along for the ride on this tour is opening act El Perro del Mar, fellow Swede Sarah Assbring’s solo project.

a-epdm1We recently wrote about the indie pop singer El Perro del Mar. With smoky made-up eyes and wearing a white t-shirt, tapestry jacket, and black tights, Assbring swiveled her hips to the bass-heavy rhythms provided by her backing band, which was seemingly at odds with her fragile, tender vocals and her lack of stage patter. Listening to ‘A Better Love’ (a song that starts out mellow enough and then the tempo picked up, Assbring grabbing a tambourine from the floor and shaking it seductively), I was struck by how at times her voice could remind you of Lykke Li. In ‘Party”, Assbring brought sexy back, singing, “is it so hard to see? / I don’t want to be your friend / I just want to be a part of you“. Sultry? Heck yes. I think if she can develop a better rapport with her audiences, she has a good shot at mainstream success. She already has the look and sound.

If you are unsure which member of Peter Bjorn and John is which, here’s a quick rundown: Peter Morén – short brown hair, kind of looks like a Beatle (even sounds a bit like John Lennon?), plays guitar and harmonica and sings; Björn Yttling – bearded and extremely tall, plays bass and synths; John Eriksson – wears a black knit hat, plays drums and percussion. Speaking of the Beatles, what band nowadays bows in unison like the Beatles did back in the Sixties? No one. But PB&J do. Classy chaps. You wouldn’t think looking at these three exceedingly nice Swedes that they make some of the best dance music around, but they do. Check out ‘Nothing to Worry About’, the most successful song off ‘Living Thing’ and a homage of sorts to Jay-Z‘s ‘Hard Knock Life’. The whole crowd had their hands in the air and were gyrating and twisting to the beats for this one.

h-pbj2Further, the trio have also written some great pieces of pop that probably get lost in the shuffle, given the success of ‘Young Folks’ and the more recent ‘Nothing to Worry About’. ‘Living Thing’, the title track from their current album, feels more ‘Tarzan’ film / world music / Peter Gabriel than should be allowed, but it works, and it works really well. Everyone in the club joined in the chorus for ‘Lay It Down’, with its humourous chorus of “hey shut the fuck up boy / you’re starting to piss me off / take your hands off that girl / you’ve already had enough“. The best artists are able to involve their audiences, and these three Swedes had us eating out of their hands. A special treat came in the form of an instrumental called ‘Needles and Pins’ that featured guest band Hat City Intuitive. The Connecticut band were called in to help PB&J play a song from their 2008 completely instrumental album, ‘Seaside Rock’, and we were the first people in America ever to hear any songs from this album played live.

i-pbj3When they returned for the encore, Morén implored us to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to them; trying to sing the line “happy birthday dear Peter-Bjorn-and-John” really fast is quite funny, and the people around laughed while they were singing it. He then admitted, “I used to take [guitar] lessons but my teacher did not like me, so I still have problems [playing]”, which elicits laughs from the crowd. If he has any sort of guitar-playing impediment, it clearly was not in evidence for ‘Paris 2004’ or any other song Saturday night. I couldn’t say for certain but it looked like he was whistling all the oh-so-important parts of PB&J songs, so if he was, I have to give him kudos for that as well.

Tip: if you’re seeing a band in Washington and the venue is small, you usually are rewarded if you hang around long enough, because most bands will come out and say hello. In PB&J’s case, Morén took the initiative by heading for the merch table directly after the gig, causing a near stampede of fans wanting to head in the same direction. In the end, all three members of PB&J patiently posed for photos with and signed vinyl, CDs, drum heads, tote bags, and posters for their devoted fans. What did I say about them before? Oh yes. Classy chaps. Class act all the way. As a native Washingtonian I felt honoured and a bit teary-eyed when Morén said earlier in the night, “this is the best place in the world!” and that they enjoy playing our town. I hope their return soon and often.

After the jump: set lists and photos.

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El Perro del Mar photos:

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El Perro del Mar set list:
Let Me In
Change of Heart
L is for Love
Party
Gotta Get Smart
A Better Love
I Can’t Talk About It

Peter Bjorn and John photos:

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Peter Bjorn and John set list:
Amsterdam
Far Away, By My Side
Living Thing
I Want You
It Don’t Move Me
Lay It Down
Just the Past
Young Folks
Nothing to Worry About
Needles and Pins (instrumental)
//
Paris 2004
People They Know
Objects of My Affection

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