The fourth and final night of my concert series ended last night with (yet) another show at the Troubadour. This time it was Sondre Lerche with opener Dan Wilson of Semisonic fame.
I didn't post anything about Night Three which took place at the Key Club to see Astra Heights, the band of a friend of a friend. Even without the personal connection, I was quite impressed by Astra Heights. Their music is indebted to the British, glam-rock sound, which they acknowledged by delivering a dead-on cover of T. Rex's "Twentieth Century Boy." Their album, Good Problems, is now available on iTunes. The songs "The March" and "Well Farewell" are highlights.
As for Lerche, he's gotten big enough that he performed two solo shows at the Troubadour. Sadly for me, being at the show last night made me realize that I have the musical tastes of a 19 year-old girl. I was surrounded by adoring young girls who professed their love to Sondre and punctuated each Sondre anecdote with a chorus of "Awww's". The rather sizable fan base surprised me, but Lerche has been working hard, releasing an album every year. He's getting more exposure now that he did the entire Dan in Real Life soundtrack. I haven't heard the new album yet, but the songs I heard last night--even with the limitations of a solo show--sounded pleasant and sweet. I suppose the appeal of Lerche is that coupled with his boyish good looks, his songs tug at heartstrings without being cloying or corny. I've been disappointed, though,that he hasn't progressed further than I think he's capable of, especially when he delivers something as potent as the title track from Phantom Punch. That song shows Lerche is capable of more than just diverting, adorable songs. Lerche has taken itty-bitty steps forward with nary a stumble. That's something I suppose.
The set last night was divvied up between all of Lerche's albums, with a slight favoring towards Phantom Punch. He opened with "Don't Be Shallow" but the set didn't really establish itself until the third song, "Everyone's Rooting for You." Lerche's music has been fairly formal and minimalist, so the songs didn't suffer much from the one-man arrangements. Of course the quieter songs, "Maybe You're Gone" especially, worked the best, but even "Dead Passengers" worked thanks to an impressive guitar interlude that showed off Lerche's chops. For his encore, Lerche ventured to perform the insistent "Phantom Punch" and Lerche admitted that the song really can't be performed well without a full band. Remarkably it worked. He also performed "Modern Nature" and ended the night with "Sleep On Needles" and all was well with his adoring fans.
As likable as Lerche is, it was his opening act, Dan Wilson, that tipped the balance of whether to go or not to go. I've been waiting for his solo album for a few years now, and now that it's here I can say that it's a rewarding album. There are moments of corniness--what songs about peace and love aren't?--and the songs are on the slow side, but Wilson's gift for melody shines through. The crowd, there to see Lerche, were slow to warm to Wilson's more mellow sounds, but by the time he got to his third song, "Easy Silence" and definitely when he performed "Sugar," the crowd was his. He even performed "Closing Time," which he cheekily called his "Junior" song, the song every songwriter who is about to have a baby writes. The song that the rest of the bandmembers were dreading. His proof: replace "room" with "womb" in the line "this room won't be open till your brothers or your sisters come." See! Great set, even as a solo. Definitely check out the album, Free Life.