Peter, Björn and John | 04.30.07

live_pbjThe hard-won sensitivity of a romantic and creative adolescence seems to definitely have its benefits—either that, or Sweden is kinder to its young.





w/Fujiya & Miyagi and Au Revoir Simone
9:30 Club, Washington, D.C.

The Peter Björn and John show at the 9:30 Club held the anticipation of the climax of a heartwarming adolescent romantic comedy lost somewhere in the John Hughes vault. It was as though the awkward exchange student shunned by the cool kids at some everywhere American high school got up at the school talent show and rocked everyone's socks off. Not to be unfair to the distinct cool of the trio of melodic Swedes who performed in front of an enormous black backdrop with the wonderfully ironic title in simple white font of "Peter Björn and John Backdrop," but one can only imagine the scarring tales of middle school traumas that generated the nostalgic sensitivity of "Young Folks," let alone the remainder of offerings from their latest album, Writer's Block.

"This is going to be fun…a proper start to an American tour," announced Peter Morén, lead vocalist and whistler extraordinaire, early in to the set. As the start of their tour, there were indeed some kinks to work out, with the occasional uneven vocals creeping in. Luckily, a good-spirited sense of humor was on hand to overcome the few glitches, with John banging away on his "Peter Björn and John Bass Drum," and Björn finding himself unable to control his laughter while singing an acoustic version of "Amsterdam." Unafraid to multitask, the song "Big Black Coffin," which Peter explained for the uninitiated was a song about death, also managed to include a very happy audience sing-along. This sing-along was especially welcome following Fujiya and Miyagi's somewhat lackluster set, which for all its minimalist Kraftwerkian overtones, proved too cold and lyrically flat in anticipation of the melodic warmth of Peter, Björn and John.

Although "Young Folks" was present in the room even before Peter, Björn and John took the stage in a taped sitar version, the curiosity to see how the band would capture the perfection of that duet—without the accented vocals delivered with Astrud Gilberto indifference by the Concretes' Victoria Bergsman—was seemingly shared by the rest of the crowd. Not to be disappointed, Heather D'Angelo from show openers Au Revoir Simone joined Peter for the song. As Peter explained, "Au Revoir Simone has women in it, and we are men." In other words, the chances for a successful male/female duet under those circumstances were pretty high.

At a show taped by National Public Radio, which is now apparently the home to all things indie as well as the authoritative voice of one Bob Boilen, Peter Björn and John opened with "Far Away, By My Side," a song from the band's second album Falling Out. They continued to bounce between their three albums throwing in covers from friendly bands such as the Concretes along the way. Playing around with their songs, Peter, Björn and John banged and strummed a little harder than I had expected from a band that has crafted such delightful pop. Conversely, they also played a little softer and got a bit more reflective than I had expected from a band that is so firmly planted in rock in its myriad forms, from synth to low-fi to more punk sensibilities. The hard-won sensitivity of a romantic and creative adolescence seems to definitely have its benefits—either that, or Sweden is kinder to its young. Aside from giving you a perfect summertime soundtrack, it is also good to know that, if you were the person who left your bicycle unlocked in front of the 9:30 Club, Peter, Björn and John will help you with that, too. | Leslie Wilson

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