Before delving into this review of a truly spectacular and memorable show, we’d like to take a moment and thank Mr. David Heilman. Heilman, bandmate and friend of Norwegian singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche, was the one who made the NYC show and the rest of the U.S. dates possible thanks to his quick thinking. After Leche’s Norwegian bandmates were denied entry to the United States, he assembled a brand new band of American musicians, Jordan Brooks and Alan Markley. Were it not for him, this show could have been cancelled, and where’s the pleasure in that?
Looking upon a crowd of Sondre Lerche fans, you could either feel young or old. Granted, the show is 18 and over, but as people arrange themselves to the front of the stage, you can see a group of young girls adjusting their cameras or clearing out their iPhone storage as a married couple begin to reminiscence about growing up with Lerche’s music. At the far right corner an elderly man adjusts his hearing aid right before Sondre Lerche enters the stage.
With David Heilman sitting himself down by his drumset, Jordan Brooks picks up his bass as Alan Markley plays his keys to start the performance with “Soft Feelings” – the opening track of Lerche’s new album Pleasure, released that same day – as Sondre Lerche runs onto the stage, welcomed by a roar of applause and some delicate screams.
Dominating the atmosphere, Lerche is a vibrant force. He snatches the microphone as he begins to dance across the stage floor, utilizing all of the energy within him to deliver such an upbeat and captivating performance – and this is only the first song!
Sliding his guitar strap onto his shoulder, Lerche quickly greets the audience with his cheery, charming smile right before entering into “Legends.” His guitar becomes a part of him as he plays. He harnesses the instrument to his control to create magnificent riffs and vibrant melodies with his hands. Jumping into the charged “Phantom Punch,” Sondre Lerche has become an unhinged ball of excitable energy, diving into the restless but entertaining rhythm.
Taking a moment to breathe, Sondre Lerche mellows the mood with the second song off his new album, “I Know Something That’s Gonna Break Your Heart,” which showcases Lerche’s natural delicate and romantic vocal tone. Within this dreamy arrangement, Lerche’s alluring delivery is met by the crowd singing along, especially by the young girl in front staring at him with tears in her eyes as she sings along (aka me).
Continuing this unplugged feeling, a blissfully energetic Sondre Lerche performs “No One’s Gonna Come” from his debut album Faces Down (2002). For a moment, as I watch this charismatic performance unfold, it really puts into perspective the length of time Sondre Lerche has been on the scene and how everyone inside this venue are either witnessing this experience for the very first time (like myself) or are seeing him for the second, fifth, eighth, and twentieth or eightieth time. Following this nostalgia trip, Lerche sings “Minor Details” softly as he roams across the stage, occasionally walking up to the front, crouching down, and singing directly into the face of a lucky fan. One fan almost fainted.
On the album, “I’m Always Watching You” is accompanied by rhythmic synthpop strings and beats, but for this performance, Sondre Lerche opts for a stripped down, completely acoustic alternative that mesmerizes the audience. No one utters a sound as Lerche dominates the stage. Even though he’s standing still by his mic, the power of his vocals leaves eyes widened and mouths agape. “Call it voyeurism, or masochism,” sings Lerche right before he passionately belts out the last verse. “At a coward’s distance! Voyeurism. I’m always watching.”
And seamlessly without missing a beat, Lerche tunes into “Two Way Monologue” – a classic by his standards that sends the audience into another exciting nostalgic trip. Lerche can practically sense the joy emitting from everyone in the room, as his smile has grown wider. “Violent Game” is next – where Sondre Lerche is unhinged on the stage and dancing on every inch of the floor.
Apparently, Lerche knows how to pace himself as the softer, less pleasantly hectic “Sentimentalist” follows. Lerche croons into the microphone, and in the corner of my eye I catch a couple, circling together in each other’s arms, and you can tell that this is their song. “Reminisce” is a call to dance as everyone is encouraged to let themselves go. With his fingers sliding rapidly up and down the neck of his guitar, Lerche’s body is dancing to the beat he creates. His feet are off the ground, too, as he roams across the stage doing a one-legged hop styled duck walk right before plummeting to his knees, lost in the energy surrounding him.
A steady, sultry bass with shakers and keys introduces “Despite the Night,” a song where the instrumentals are so sublime, Lerche’s voice is the perfect, soothing addition. And with “Bad Law” closing the show, I have never seen the night become so alive. “When crimes are passionate, can love be separate?” Lerche belts out, swaying across the stage amongst the sound of a beautiful instrumental distortion and clapping hands. The magnetic, energized show stops as the song comes to an end, and with an adieu, the band disappears into the stage door.
Overwhelmed by the night, I have to grasp the stage and try to process what just happened. The people surrounding me either frantically leave to catch the 11:00 train, begin shouting for an encore with their fists in the air, or stand completely frozen, trying to take in all that just happened right before their eyes. I’ve been waiting four years to see Sondre Lerche live in concert. Photos of him were taped on my locker, a few stuffed in my binder next to my untouched chemistry homework, and memories of listening to his music throughout high school flooded through my head – it was surreal to say the least.
Just as I was ready to leave and catch the 11:15 train, Sondre Lerche stepped out one more time. Covered in sweat and panting heavily, he smiled as if he, too, couldn’t believe what just happened. He expressed his eternal gratitude to everyone, stating that he was scared of not having fun – he was exhausted from 50 dates in Norway and stressed from the situation of his Norwegian bandmates not being able to join him – but how tonight shattered all expectations, and that it’ll be a night he’ll keep close to his heart. As if his heartfelt words aren’t enough, Lerche tenderly enters into a cover of Elvis Costello & the Attractions’ “Human Hands.” The audience is silent, everyone simultaneously trying to take in all that is happening as Lerche walks around, hands curled around the microphone as he serenades everyone one last time.
Well, not the last time because the band walks back onto the stage and to begin “Sleep on Needles,” and as if he has been recharged, Sondre Lerche jumps back into the passionate craze that has illuminated the entire night. And yet, he’s still not finished because Sondre Lerche and everyone in the room don’t want the night to end – so a Norwegian techno dance party ensues. Lerche shamelessly plops himself down onto the floor as the band gifts everyone a catchy, dance pop beat that continues into the night where the venue has transformed into a dance hall, completely wrapped up in pleasure.