The Icelandic band rocked Laval’s Place Bell on Sept. 11
“I’ve busted bones / broken stones / looked the devil in the eye / I hope he’s going to break these chains.”
Kaleo didn’t break any bones at their Place Bell show last Tuesday, but they probably did break some hearts. Made up almost entirely of lifelong friends, the four-man band pulled at their Canadian fans’ heartstrings when they emerged on stage eclipsed in blood-red lights.
It’s always interesting to see which songs bands choose to start and end their shows on. That night, when frontman JJ Julius Son’s deep voice broke the silence by gently groaning the first few lines of “Broken Bones,” the crowd erupted in blissful cheers. Anticipation, meet satisfaction. The song began faintly—a capella, save for the rhythmic claps—until the 23-second mark when full volume was attained; then Rubin Pollock and his guitar skillfully snatched the spotlight.
Next up on the setlist was the band’s fourth single, “Can’t Go on Without You,” which they delivered with precision and poise. If there’s one way Kaleo sets themselves apart in today’s music scene, it’s by sounding even better live than they do on their records.
Of course, no Kaleo concert is complete without “No Good,” the textured tune that earned them a nomination in the Best Rock Performance category at the 2017 Grammy Awards. As the seventh song from the start, as well as from the end, it served as the perfect mid-show banger.
Three quarters of the way in, they sang my personal favourite, “Automobile.” This feel-good track confirms the versatility that inspired the title of the band’s second album, A / B. According to Son, the album name represents both sides of a record as a nod to their split sound: blues-rock and folk. “The ‘A’ side is more rock and roll and blues… While the ‘B’ side is a bit softer with more ballads,” he said.
The crowd swayed to the ending of “Automobile,” and the energy in the arena swiftly reached its peak as the band began to play “Way Down We Go.” Certified platinum in the United States, this is the song you’d play for a friend if they said they didn’t know Kaleo, in an effort to make them recognize that they do. That’s not to say the other songs aren’t equally deserving of attention or critical acclaim. In fact, Kaleo’s A / B is one of the only records that never lets me hit the skip button.
Aside from the exceptionally well-rounded music, a standout element that tied the show together for me was the lighting. It was perfectly in pace with the timing and ambiance of every song, guiding the audience to clap along, quiet down or lose control. Max Lenox, the band’s lighting designer, programmer and director, outdid himself this time.
Kaleo’s current tour is set to end on Sept. 30 in Asbury Park, NJ. So, if you’re in the mood for a last-minute road trip, throw some clothes in a bag, hop in a car or on a bus, and put A / B on an infinite loop.