October 18, 2016 Kaleo Sell Out Second Straight Night At Irving Plaza, NYC 10-7-16
Over the last number of years, there has been a movement returning to the roots of Rock-n-Roll. Refreshing, in a world where emotion seems to be becoming more and more synthetic inside the information age, there is still no substitute for Folk and Blues based music. Thankfully, the young talented band known as Kaleo agree as they continue to pick up momentum on the international circuit after coming out of Iceland back in 2012. Comprised of Vocalist/Guitarist JJ Julius Son along with Percussionist/Vocalist David Antonsson, Bassist Daniel Kristjansson, and Guitarist/Vocalist Rubin Pollock, Kaleo has come a long way in four short years, and their 2016 album A/B, released June 10th via Elektra/Atlantic, could be their most complete offering yet. A record that is laden with raw emotion from cover to cover, their music is also attracting the attention of the youth of America. That is why Kaleo happily returned to the North American region this fall on their headlining The Handprint Tour with special guests Bishop Briggs and The Wind + The Wave. Kicking off on September 26th, the tour finds them packing out venues coast to coast through mid-November.
With a massive buzz following them around, perhaps one of the most anticipated stops would be a visit to New York City on October 6th when they were scheduled to host Irving Plaza. Their first visit to the city since their show at Bowery Ballroom back in February, their Irving Plaza date sold out rapidly, making the demand so high that a second date was added for Friday, October 7th. Also selling out, Kaleo were amped up for the encore performance on night two.
With a line wrapped around the block, as soon as doors opened, the anxious mixed age group of concert goers quickly made their way upstairs to see The Wind + The Wave. A duo, consisting of Dwight A. Baker and Patricia Lynn, The Wind + The Wave are also a relatively new project formed out of Austin, Texas in 2012. Signing on with RCA Records, they released From The Wreckage in 2014, quickly making an impact with their soulful Folk influenced sound. Now touring regularly, an opening slot on The Handprint Tour would prove to be a perfect fit.
Recently having visited Irving Plaza back on August 29th, opening for Butch Walker on the 200 Pound Tornado of Rock N Roll Destruction Tour, Baker and Lynn immediately received a positive reaction as they played along with songs like “My Mama Said Be Careful Where You Lay Your Head.” Possessing an addictive chorus, the crowd sang along easily as they settled into the set. From here, Lynn reached out to the audience to talk about all the bad vibes going around the world today. Racial and political division, impending threats all around, it can often be too much to handle, but Lynn’s approach was quite inviting as she suggested the crowd turn to the person next to them, just to give them a hug. A touching moment to remind everyone they are all part of the same human race, the music moved on as Lynn and Baker played off one another wonderfully, offering up “Happiness is Not a Place,” the title track off their forthcoming new album.
Playing everything from the fiddle to the tambourine while she sang, Lynn was wonderful as they wound down their performance with “Grand Canyon.” Having everyone clapping along to the beat, Lynn walked off stage to get closer to the fans, leaning over to shake hands and asking everyone to come meet them at the merchandise table. A delightful start to the night, be sure to pick up Happiness is Not a Place when it drops on October 28th.
Next up was Singer-Songwriter Bishop Briggs. Born Sarah Grace McLaughlin, Briggs is originally from England, has lived in Japan, and now resides in Los Angeles, California. A cultured individual, she broke into the mainstream back in 2015 when she peaked in charts with her single “River.” Recently nabbing a spot opening for Coldplay at the end of August into September, this direct supporting slot for Kaleo gives the talented Briggs further exposure.
Coming out with a full band, Briggs had all the room to move about the stage with ease as she opened up with “The Way I Do.” Projecting her beautiful voice with ease, she moved around the front ledge of the platform like a sleek tiger, moving on with “Wild Horses,” “Pray (Empty Gun),” and “Be Your Love.” Utilizing warm lighting to help set the mood of the silky, smooth sounds of her music, Briggs had the crowd in a trance. Making the most of her time, she moved through the songs with little banter, but with complete control as she played on with “Hi-Low (Hollow)” and “Mercy.”
Coupled with irresistible beats, the set was dream-like as Briggs and her band wrapped up with her chart-topping single, “River.” Finally breaking the spell everyone was under, many began to dance and of course looked to shoot some video of the closing song. Briggs is certainly a unique tell with a voice of gold that Dark Pop fans will love.
Now completely packed all the way to underneath the mezzanine, to the back bar area, Irving Plaza was primed and ready for Kaleo. Having already played the venue the night prior, some in attendance were returning fans hoping for a slightly different song selection, or just a reprise of the previous night’s performance. Whatever it may be, there was certainly a whole energy flowing through as young fans clamored for the show to begin. Then, with Starland Vocal Band’s “Afternoon Delight” blasting through the PA, moments later, Kaleo took the stage to a sea of screams. Taking their places, Son lightly strummed his guitar, almost as if he was playing Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” before breaking into “I Can’t Go On Without You.”
Having broken the ice, Kaleo was on their way with ear-tingling inflections on the delicate “Save Yourself,” heavier “Broken Bones,” before “Alter Ego.” Their primitive beats matched with Son’s deep Blues vocals shook the crowd to the core as many grooved to the music as they played on with “Pour Sugar On Me.” Complemented by the emotional guitar licks and solos from Pollock, it was compelling to see such a young crowd take to Blues Rock like this in the year 2016. Keeping the show flowing, Son invited out a harmonica player, a man he called Rooster, as he introduced “The Automobile.” Having fans clapping and singing along, it was if Irving Plaza transformed to a down south Gospel church, and Son was the minister spreading the word.
Keeping everyone singing along through “All The Pretty Girls,” “Hot Blood” was the heaviest rocker of the night where nearly everyone was dancing and clapping along. A nice way to rev up the amps, Kaleo showed their diversity as they cruised into the guitar bending “No Good” as Son reached higher with powerful singing. Then, in the blink of an eye, the mood halted to a much mellower vibe as light guitar notes resonated with Son singing in his native Icelandic language for “Vor I Vaglaskogi.” Translating into “Spring in Vagla-wood,” this mesmerizing tune saw more crowd participation, as many clearly knew the words. Perhaps the highlight of the show thus far, the music kept coming and the man called Rooster returned to offer some more harmonica on “Backdoor” before the band went into a slower, but rocking, rendition of Cher’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down).”
Already covering so much ground, they would save one of their most popular singles for the end portion of the set when they played “Way Down We Go,” highlighted by some nice steel acoustic guitar. With hands in the air and heads bopping, once the music subsided, they showed mass appreciation to New York City for two consecutive sold out shows. Reacting with more applause, the audience clearly wanted more, thus, following a brief break, Kaleo returned for “Ladies Man” before the loud and proud “Rock ‘n’ Roller” as a send off.
Kaleo certainly brings an energy with them to the stage, and that energy keeps flowing all set long. Rather impressive to have sold out two shows in a row in New York City, the future looks very bright for Kaleo as they move forward. Above all, it is delightful to see traditional Blues and Folk Rock still has a place in the modern music world.Photos by: Aintellin Photography