Last Saturday night, Denver got a taste of southern rock from the most unlikely of sources: an Icelandic rock band with a knack for rhythm & blues. If you’re looking for some new music to get you through your week, look no further than Kaleo’s dynamic new album A/B. Although the band played Denver before their debut album was available to the masses, it didn’t stop fans from dancing along beginning to end of the set.
Kaleo's show at the Gothic Theatre kicked off with the same opening track as the record, “No Good”. A foot-stomping, hand-clapping sing along, the raucous crowd didn’t hesitate to let the band know how happy they were to have them on stage. The band's first record, self-titled Kaleo, featured six songs, five of which went to number one on the charts, leading to a slew of performances across Europe in 2013. Their latest release, A/B feels just as promising, and the radio single “Way Down We Go” is already burning up the charts. The album is an eclectic yet fluid mix of sounds and feelings, guiding the listener through a journey with vocalist and lead guitarist JJ Julius Son. Tracks like “No Good”, Glass House”, and “Automobile” pay homage to the band’s American home of Austin, Texas with southern-style guitars, bluesy solos, and soulful lyrics reminiscent of the “good ol’ days”. The tracks “All The Pretty Girls”, and “Vor í vaglaskógi” (a unique take on a traditional Icelandic ballad) showcase the bands diversity in style and sound, as well as lead vocalist Son’s haunting precision with his falsetto. The high note towards the end of “Vor í vaglaskógi” seems impossible to hit live for someone with such a low chest voice, but when it came time on Saturday night, JJ Julius Son hit it with ease, and the Theatre fell silent in awe.
Since the album had not been released prior to their Denver performance, the crowd was very different than your typical performance. Without the ability to sing along, it felt like much of the audience continued to chat together throughout the set, but although they were talking, it was clear they were listening as well. The audience clapped along as the band commanded, hollered at all the right moments, and respected the intensity that came along with ballads. This feeling of respect met with unfamiliarity was reminiscent of a fantastic house band playing at a bar (albeit with much, much better material than i’ve ever stumbled across at a local dive), creating an exuberant atmosphere enjoyed by all, without creating the dividers often felt by performers with diehard fanbases or more experiential set. Now that the record is out and I’ve become more familiar with the tracks, thinking back on the show makes it even more enjoyable, realizing that the strength and power felt in the moment by certain songs has translated into the recording. Creating a record that captures the same energy as a live performance is a feat not easily accomplished, and Kaleo has done just that. The anticipation for my next chance to see them live has only grown with each listen. We yet know the next time Kaleo will be in Colorado, but you can prepare yourself by listening to A/B, which is now available on iTunes, Spotify, or from your favorite local record shop.