For Royksopp, Old Hits Make for Novel ShowFor Royksopp, Old Hits Make for Novel Show
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Category: Arts & Entertainment > Music > Concerts
An eager crowd filed into the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco on Monday night for a few hours of pure and easy enjoyment. The Norwegian electronic music duo Royksopp (Torbjorn Brundtland and Svein Berge) don't come to the States often, but when they do, their fans know not to miss it.
Royksopp began their set with the fun and bouncy "Eple," an easy choice. "Eple" received a lot of attention when Apple Inc. ("eple" is Norwegian for "apple") licensed the song in the early '00s and used it as the intro music for their software. Perhaps too obvious, the song felt a bit like preliminary business.
After all, I had been put under the impression that the tour was to support their latest studio album, Senior, which was celebrated for its darker sound. I had come expecting minimalism, the kind of music you'd probably prefer to listen to alone. That was my mistake. Not a single track from Senior made the set list, and looking back on the evening, I couldn't be happier that the band decided to withhold those songs.
All of Royksopp's albums balance a range of emotions. Senior is considered the exception, as the songs never come nearly as close to the light-hearted melodies of their earlier hits. In the context of their work, Senior succeeds as a welcome detour into a more introspective theme. Instead of trying to force this heaviness into their set, the group focused on finding middle ground.
Each song they played seemed to build upon the energy of the previous, balancing the mood against the excitement of a new element. When they started playing "Sparks," a downtempo piece that's slow and seductive, the incredibly talented Anneli Drecker (a contributor on several of their albums) took to the stage to pour her voice out into the crowd. Considering that so many of Royksopp's best songs feature a female vocalist, her arrival was very promising.
One of the things that makes seeing a Royksopp show so much fun is the infectious charisma that the band brings to the set. So many electronica acts boil down to one or two people standing at their keyboards or turntables and barely lifting their fingers; the classic complaint is that nothing happens on the stage. Royksopp makes it a point to avoid this stereotype. Along with the lovely Drecker, who sang in roughly a third of the songs played, the duo also had a guitarist and bassist with them, and as is the custom with any Royksopp show, all five of them were running around and adorning various costumes whenever they had a moment to do so. For "The Girl and the Robot," Berge put on a glowing-eyed robot mask, creating the impression of a very hip Darth Vader, and Brundtland spent a song skipping around the stage wearing a pillow case over his head. These are the kind of details you can't help but appreciate, as no one wants to go to a party if the host isn't having fun.
All in all, I walked away more excited about Royksopp than when I arrived. Interspersed throughout the set were various surprises: a reinterpretation of the third movement of Steve Reich's minimalist classic "Electric Counterpoint;" a cover of Kate Bush's hit single "Wuthering Heights;" the yet-to-be-released track "Have Another Cherry;" and to end it all (who'd have guessed?), a remix of Kings of Leon's "The Immortals." Never before has it felt so good to see a show that doesn't meet a single one of my expectations. But, maybe that's not a fair statement ญญ- I definitely expected a good time.
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