Kaleo: O2 Academy, Birmingham, The Kaleo Express Tour — Review
Surrounded by an eclectic mix of ages and buzzing anticipation, tension rises as the wait for Kaleo’s characteristic rock presence to take the stage continues. When the delay is finally over, the Icelandic fourpiece are greeted by a wall of screams threatening to drown the beginning of the set. Kaleo’s second full-length album A/B released last year is structured in a nostalgic reference to the days of vinyl records, where different sides to an artist could be showcased easily.
Kaleo’s live performance continues to do this justice. Live, as, on record, JJ Julius Son’s raspy and powerful voice fills the small space in Birmingham’s O2 Academy, commanding all attention onto him. In contrast to the slightly manic enthusiasm of the support act’s frontman Judah of Judah and the Lion, Julius holds the crowd’s attention with a quiet confidence. The slow bluesy sounds of ‘Broken Bones’ delivers an excellent warm-up for the audience, as the second track ‘Way Down We Go’ shows off Julius’ easy falsetto and is met with profuse cheers from the crowd.
The band translates the concept of the split album by continuing with a slower track ‘I Can’t Go On Without You’; the conclusion to A/B. The raw emotion of the song is amplified by Rubin Pollock’s epic guitar, highlighting the talent clearly oozing from the stage. Kaleo fuses together many aspects of various blues-rock bands in A/B and it’s predecessor; borrowing punchy guitar riffs from the likes of The Black Keys. However, Kaleo takes it into another realm with clear, gritty vocals on the track ‘Pour Sugar On Me’ before stripping it back once again for the country-infused ‘Automobile’ complete with a harmonica solo. In a pleasantly surprising departure from arguably an overstructured first half, Kaleo impresses with an electric improvisation on guitar during ‘Hot Blood’; which is followed by a rock cover of Bang Bang by Cher.
The highlight of the show came during the song that couldn’t have been more opposite to its title, ‘No Good’. The snarling, stomp-rock song was born for live performance, making the line “you can tell I got fever” truer than ever as the audience is fuelled once again with a renewed energy. Just as the four-piece can bring you up, they showed that they can easily bring you back down to earth, serenading the crowd with the only song they know in their native Icelandic tongue ‘Vor I Vaglaskogi’ transcending the language barrier to convey the powerful beauty of the ballad.
Clearly, this last song is not enough for the audience. The band remerge to chants of “we want more” to sing one last song, ‘Rock N Roller’ leaving in a cataclysm of rock magic. As they have already made waves in Iceland and the US, there is no doubt that they will continue to conquer in the months to come.
Article: Mariella Bevan
URY Music Editor: Alex West