We Love Music: Royksopp @ 9:30 Club, 3/23/11

Photo courtesy of
‘Röyksopp 03’
courtesy of ‘Max Cook’

Guest reviewer Alexia Kauffman of The Torches was at the show for We Love DC:

Norwegian electronic duo Royksopp brought jubilant energy to their sold out show at the 930 club Wednesday night. When I arrived, fifteen minutes before doors opened, there was a line stretching down the block of dedicated admirers waiting in the cold rain for a good spot inside.

I must say that I have been eagerly anticipating this show for some time. This was my first time seeing Royksopp. I heard and loved their song “Remind Me” years ago (yes, before the Geico commercial), and then fell in love with their remix of Beck’s “Missing” on his 2005 remix EP(the best Beck remix ever, IMO). It wasn’t until their 2009 album Junior, though, that I fell hard for them. That album spent the entire summer/fall in my car stereo, and on repeat through my headphones at work.

Since then I have been dying to see them live. And finally, to DC they came.

Photo courtesy of
‘Röyksopp 01’
courtesy of ‘Max Cook’

One thing that I was curious about prior to the show was how they would execute their many hits that featured guest vocalists. Their most popular songs feature such unique and outstanding vocalists as Erlend Oye (of Kings of Convenience fame), Robyn, and Karin Dreijer (The Knife, Fever Ray). In my wildest fantasy I hoped they would kidnap Dreijer & Robyn for the tour. In my more unfortunate scenario I imagined them playing only from their latest, totally instrumental album Senior, which I just haven’t gotten into as much as Junior. What ended up happening was a pretty good compromise, and a really fun show.

I don’t have much to say about the opening act, DJ Jon Hopkins. Though I liked what I heard on his website before the show, when he started playing onstage the bass was so loud, I can only accurately describe it as bowel-shaking. There were brief moments of quieter, even pretty melodies, but they were few and far between the painfully loud, long stretches of mega bass.

Royksopp opened their set with their first two singles, the laid-back instrumental jam “Eple”, and spacey “So Easy.” The party truly started though when the bouncing beat of “Remind Me” kicked in. Here, in place of the well-known dreamy vocals of Erlend Oye, we were treated to the voice of one half of Royksopp duo, Torbjørn Brundtland. Processed through some effects, the lyrics were sung as a melancholy robot. The song was both wistful and joyful, getting the crowd jumping and dancing.

Photo courtesy of
‘Röyksopp 04’
courtesy of ‘Max Cook’

For most of the show, Royksopp’s Torbjørn Brundtland and Svein Berge were accompanied by a talented guitarist and equally skilled bassist who spent a good part of the show wearing what looked to be burlap sacks on their heads. When he wasn’t a baghead, the guitarist donned a helmet with glowing green strip that looked like a cross between Daft Punk and Marvin the Martian. It was exciting to see the duo breaking away from the standard laptops and mixing boards you so often see when electronic acts play live. They had a whole assortment of cool old synthesizers/keyboards, and Svein Berge even played percussion on an electronic drum pad setup.

A female vocalist Berge referred to as Amelie joined them onstage for “Sparks,” another down-tempo early single. She would reappear throughout the set as quite a chameleon, singing the female vocals in the styles of their original singers.

The second real high point in the set came when they launched into the undeniably upbeat “Happy Up Here,” from the album Junior. Royksopp did indeed look happy themselves, bouncing around the stage and dancing as they played.

Photo courtesy of
‘Röyksopp 05’
courtesy of ‘Max Cook’

After a live remix of the Kings of Leon song “The Immortals” came two more pearls- ”What Else Is There” and “The Girl and The Robot.” These were shining moments for the guest vocalist Amelie. First she sang/played the part of Karin Dreijer in “What Else Is There”, complete with dark, weird, headdress that shone lights out of its top. She mimicked Dreijer’s unique vocals so closely at first that I did a double-take…but no, it wasn’t Dreijer, and yes, she was actually singing. Next she played the part of Robyn, with equal vocal precision, for the energetic “The Girl and The Robot”, even busting out aerobic-like dance moves a la Robyn.

“Have Another Cherry” turned the club into an all-out rave, with glowsticks waving, fists pumping, and bodies jumping. An unexpected turn, and total mood swing, was their cover of Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights”, which once again showcased the vocal shapeshifter Amelie as she did a spot-on interpretation of Bush’s unmistakable soaring voice. She even danced like Kate Bush. The thing about Amelie that was great though, was that she never stole the show from the group themselves. She did her part hamming it up as guest vocalist, but the music itself was the star.

They ended the fabulous fun night of dancing and grooving with an encore -one of my favorite tracks from Junior, the dark, thumping “Tricky Tricky”, and left the audience cheering for more.

Alexia Kauffman

Alexia was born and raised in Arlington, VA. She has been a cellist since age four, and a lover of rock & roll soon after. The first tape she owned was “Make It Big” by Wham, and the first tape she bought was Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” and she still loves both. She was a member of local synth-rock outfit Soft Complex for several years, and has recorded with bands including Engine Down and Two if By Sea. By day she works for a non-profit distributing royalties to musicians and labels. She currently plays cello, lap-steel guitar and tambourine in the DC post-folk/Americana band The Torches.

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