Power-surge pop

Peter Bjorn and John, Paradise Rock Club, May 4, 2007
By WILL SPITZ  |  May 7, 2007

For whatever reason — the cutesy name? the indie-nerd fan base? the whistling? — I was expecting a restrained, polite set from the super-hyped Swedish band Peter Bjorn and John at their sold-out Paradise show last Friday. So I was surprised when the trio — guitarist Peter Morén, bassist Bjorn Yttling, and drummer Nino Keller (John isn’t touring with the group), all of whom sing — turned out an aggressive, assured performance reminiscent of their fellow countrymen the Hives, complete with rock-star declarations (“You are great, Boston. We are great, as well, I know.”) and stage moves (Chuck Berry duck walks and Pete Townshend leaps courtesy of Peter). Peter’s Vox amp — helpfully labeled, like their T-shirts: “Peter Bjorn and John guitar amp” — was much more overdriven and much grungier than it is on their latest album, Writer’s Block (Almost Gold), which they played in its entirety. And his noisy mic-stand-molesting guitar solo on “Up Against the Wall” was anything but restrained.

Yet the songs remained the stars of the show. There were few instrumental embellishments — a harmonica here, a sampled bell-like sound there — and the sparseness helped to highlight the strength of the songwriting. The catchy guitar hook of “Let’s Call It Off” was salient against Bjorn’s three-note bass line and Nino’s simple tom-tom beat. The languid, whistle-driven “Amsterdam” became a lively “Blackbird”-esque fingerpicked-guitar-and-vocals affair with the crowd clapping along on the twos and fours. Heather D’Angelo, from openers Au Revoir Simone, sang Victoria Bergsman’s part on PB&J’s best-known song, “Young Folks,” swaying along with Peter and the rest of the room. There was nothing extraordinary about this, aside from the song itself — but as was the case with the rest of the set, that was enough to make the moment transcendent.

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