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Reykjavik Calling’s second year was a rousing success, bringing together some of Boston’s finest and pairing them with two of Iceland’s rising stars. The Paradise was packed with a loud and lively crowd who were eagerly anticipating a concert filled with unforgettable performances, collaborations, and camaraderie between Iceland and Boston.
Icelandic singer-songwriter Sóley Stefánsdóttir kicked off the concert with her gloomy brand of piano balladry. Her set was slow and drenched in echo, giving her and her backing band a very foreboding presence, while the stage was completely dark save for a select few blue lights. What stood out the most about her set was the huge, droning sound that was going on behind her; most of the time it would be quite overpowering, creating a kind of lumbering drive. At times, she was reminiscent of a gothic Beach House, especially when she draped her songs with drum machine backing, some heavy, droning bass and, occasionally, locking into a subtle groove which she would ride until the end of the song.
Sóley premiered two new songs during her set: “Wedding” and “I Will Find You”. The former was punctuated by a military drum beat while the latter was soft and subtle with light vocals. Near the end of her set, Kris Delmhorst and her backing band appeared and played two songs with Sóley. Both songs benefited from Delmhorst’s backing band, in particular her slide guitar player which nicely accompanied everything in an echoey fashion. One could definitely tell that there was a friendship brewing between Kris and Sóley as they were both very quick to praise each other’s songwriting.
Kris Delmhorst’s set quickly followed Sóley and you can tell that they are both circling around the same musical ideas. However, Delmhorst stuck to a more traditional, albeit modern, folk sound; like a cross between Fleet Foxes-esque melodies, the somberness of some of Ryan Adam’s compositions, and Delmhorst’s own take on blues and rootsy folk.
What particularly stood out about her set was her multi-instrumentalist, perched on stage right. His subtle and bright slide guitar accompaniment really brought out some nice melodies, but he wasn’t afraid of busting out a particularly ferocious banjo solo or a bluesy, soulful guitar solo.
Up next was Icelandic wunderkind, Ásgeir Trausti. Earlier this week, Trausti stopped by WERS to play a short acoustic set. However, it seems like he has been taking cues from one of Iceland’s biggest exports, Sigur Rós, as he hit the stage with a full-backing band and proceeded to make a massive impact on the crowd. His backing band created a fuller sound and packed a more emotional punch; they did a good job of highlighting some of Trausti’s poppy and catchy melodies.
However, half-way through his set, Trausti suddenly and fully embraced the Sigur Rós influences, guiding his band into a more cerebral and atmospheric sound. Songs would slowly build up, helped by some subtle electronic touches, before bursting into a glorious blast of noise. His final song, built around a pummeling riff that would start and stop on a dime, really got the crowd going with tons of people yelling for an encore at the end.
Boston’s own Adam Ezra Group closed up the show with their rousing brand of roots and alternative rock. Definitely on the other end of the musical spectrum, they turned up the volume and gave the crowd some tunes to dance and sing along to. One of the highlights of their set was their cover of the Charlie Daniels Band’s “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” renamed “The Devil Went Down to Boston”, complete with a rousing violin solo.
Overall, Reykjavik Calling once again proved to be one of Boston’s unique concert experiences. A rare chance to see four very different, albeit all entertaining, acts give their all to wow a packed Paradise. As tempting as it is to say that this was a once in a lifetime experience, here’s to many more years of Reykjavik Callings.