I have to admit, I was kind of worried about seeing Peter, Bjorn and John. I had heard read some interesting things about their show at SXSW, and since then, I haven’t read or seen anything about them live in any capacity. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll recall how much I loved their latest album Living Thing (and if not, read my review here) and I love Writer’s Block just as much, and really, I didn’t want to be disappointed by their live show. Faced with the tough decision on whether to see them or to see the Monsters of Folk at Stubb’s, I chose P, B & J and am pretty thrilled with my decision.
Charging a dedicated and attention-loving roadie with the task of preparing the stage, he probably took no less than 30 minutes testing each and every instrument, synthesizer, and microphone, all the while mugging covertly for the crowd. As such, we were soon assured that at the very least, the instruments would be working correctly, and that the roadie was ready to step in for any one of the band members should his dreams come true one of them become ill (for all my teasing, it should be said that there was no doubt this guy was a great roadie).
Click the jump to see a picture of the best roadie of all time, and to read about the show!!
Once the show began, right from the get-go lead singer Peter Moren, bassist, keyboardist and producing guru Bjorn Yttling, and drummer John Erikkson eased any inkling of concern I might have had. Peter particularly is exuberant on stage, fully committed to performing and connecting with the audience, with amazing control over his vocal range. Bjorn is certifiably nuts, in the best possible way of course, playfully interacting with the audience and egging on the crowd in a Swedish dead-pan fashion when it came time to chant or clap bombastically. John, as are most drummers, seemed happy to hang toward the back, but did take on impressive singing and whistling duties as well.
P, B & J played a bunch of their hits up front, pulling mainly from Living Thing and their mega-successful Writer’s Block. Starting with “Amsterdam” (see video at top), they moved into “Start to Melt”, “Living Thing”, “Young Folks“, and “Nothing to Worry About” pretty quickly. P, B & J’s songs aren’t necessarily instrumentally complicated; it’s their arrangements that are complex and that can make playing live a demanding feat. “Start to Melt” is essentially a wall of sound with vocals – there’s very little cueing involved, especially live, and “Nothing to Worry About” mixes sampling with off-beats and an intricate vocal line. The band hit their marks spotlessly, especially Peter, who has a knack for natural timing. For “Young Folks”, they brought out Sarah Assbring from El Perro del Mar, the opener (who I didn’t see nearly enough of to provide a review here), and she and Peter displayed the cute chemistry that makes a sweet and brilliantly crafted pop song come alive in concert.
One of the best parts of the show for me was “Blue Period Picasso“, one of my favorite songs from Living Thing, which the band said was their first time to play live anywhere. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but they did a fantastic job with it at La Zona Rosa. In general, the band’s ability to absolutely shred their instruments (check out Peter on harmonica here!) added an unexpected twist of intensity to the show by infusing their experimental indie pop sounds with genuine rock. Other highlights included “Just the Past“, “It Don’t Move Me“, and “Lay It Down”, but the absolute greatest moment came with “Object of My Affection” from Writer’s Block. It’s a track infused with sublimely self-conscious lyrics, and a perfectly bittersweet melody, and live, Peter took a couple of a cappella lines, pouring emotion into the pin-drop-silent room. It was probably the point in the show where the band could have easily given much bigger bands a run for their money. Utterly outstanding.
The band came back for an encore, having announced it was their 10 year anniversary as a band, and played a song from their 2002 album Peter, Bjorn and John. Then for their last number, they introduced some horn players, Mr. Ass and Mr. Tap (hardy-har-har!) …AND the roadie! In his big moment, everyone played an instrumental piece from the band’s album 2008 Seaside Rock that veered wildly from rock to experimental, nuanced with Pink Floyd and Flaming Lips influences.
Peter, Bjorn and John put on a great show and if I had one complaint about their performance, it was that at an hour and ten minutes, it could have afforded to be a bit longer. That’s not to say I was left unsatisfied, because they certainly jam-packed the set with crowd-pleasers. It was a pure, superb performance from a band who is on their way up in the ranks and I can’t wait to hear what they do next.