Concert review: Peter Bjorn and John, Au Revoir Simone

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

For weeks, I thought this Swedish trio was a duo composed of one man named Peter Bjorn and his simpler companion, John. (Sort of like calling a band Bjorn Borg and Steve...)

What I found out Monday night at the Wexner Center Performance Space - consistently one of the best venues in town - was that PB&J are three polite, goofy gentlemen playing in one of the most intriguing and talented bands I've seen all year.

You've heard the delightful whistling from the lead single, "Young Folks," played regularly on TV commercials, and much of the band's material is as catchy, though not as delicate, as this hit.

Even a song like "Big Black Coffin," one of the winners they did in the impassioned set, carries a latent sense of hope.

In fact, what makes the band so interesting is its ability to change pace, tone, texture and timbre without losing the peculiar and likeable personality that was won them significant audiences in the United States.

Last night's show was packed with people laughing, singing and clapping along with the band.

I found myself doing the same, caught up by both the music and the stage presence of guitarist Peter and bassist Bjorn. Always polite and funny, this tandem displayed the subtle cosmopolitan wisdom of an aging librarian and the wonder of a young child learning to read.

For example, before introducing their fastest and rowdiest song of the night, tenatively called "Rock Song," Bjorn said: "This next one is a great little us."

It was as good as promised.

The rest of the show featured acoustic ballads, happy-go-lucky tunes about summer vacations and love and a host of songs that evince the band has overcome all fear of failure. They excelled at engaging the crowd with the slightest of melodies and, shortly after, muted guitar screeches that could open a Motley Crue record.

Whatever they threw at the wall Monday night stuck fast.

Au Revoir Simone after the jump...

Judging lineup and start times horribly, I missed nearly every song played by this pop trio from Brooklyn, which has made a name for itself by playing only the most alluring and romantic synthesized sounds.

No worry, though, I've listened to their new album about 10 times since I got it several weeks ago. The spectacular fusion of concert review and album review I had planned on the drive down will now be only a spectacular album review.

That is, an enjoyable review of a spectacular album...

When I talked last year with Erika Forster, Heather D'Angelo and Annie Hart, the ladies that compose Simone happily recounted the formation of the band. In simplest chronology, they started taking keyboard lessons, found they most enjoyed actually forming their own melodies and took things from bedrooms to the smaller clubs in their hometown.

And their debut EP, Verses of Assurance, Comfort & Salvation, displayed this innocent vibe shared by friends who discover they can say the most meaningful things to each other through song.

Like much of the album, "Hurricanes," "Stay Golden" lead single "Backyards of Our Neighbors," which appeared on Grey's Anatomy, were an exercise in simplicity, image and revealing the most secretive regions of the subconscious. It also showcased what can be done by three women with keyboards and a working knowledge of computerized drum machines.

It was a gem from a year of great releases.

What makes their follow-up even better lies in trio's ability to sharpen their talent, art and craft without losing the intimacy of their previous effort.

On The Bird of Music, their alluring ladytronics - those dainty, midnight sounds - are in full effect, tempered by experience and softened by looking back less to the harsher synth of the '80s.

"The Lucky One" starts the album off in sunny fashion - the chorus actually says, "Let the sun shine" - with a sparse ringing of bells and a few expert key strokes. "Sad Song," which is more touching than sad, features intricate interplay between instruments and the album's catchiest hook.

Even "A Violent Yet Flammable World" nevers strays too far from the band's underlying message that things will be alright in the end.

Years ago, a critic claimed that '60s-era vocal trio the Lettermen were the "best thing to happen to romance since moonlight," and a similarly rosy statement could be made about this group, which has gotten even better at painting a dreamy landscape for lovers.

Fans left wanting more after their EP will be far more satisfied with this full-length, which the trio is releasing on their own Our Secret Records May 15.