22 March 2007, Manchester Academy 3
Very good value. This was a great show to attend after not going to a gig for a while, high energy from beginning to end, from a band who have been on the road for most of the last year or so. The Sounds spent most of last year in America, and now they're promoting new album Dying To Say This To You in Europe.
This second album, successor to 2003's Living in America, is just as solid as the first ; well produced with some hook-strong new songs. (The cover? Yes, I know, not a little cynically attention grabbing, but somehow I can't quite bring myself to complain) I spotted it in HMV afterwards and I noted that the inexpensive UK version has bonus tracks and videos, all missing from the Swedish copy I picked up last year. Oh well, at least mine is more aesthetically pleasing ;) The new material is quite an achievement I think, because on one level, one Sounds song is very like another. Or to put it another way, the tempo hardly changes at all. But they're all done very well, and to be honest, my attention wavers a little when they do try something a little different, like in Tony the Beat I guess. Once you buy into The Sounds, you've got over an hour of strong material, like we had here in Manchester and no doubt in the rest of the tour.
The set featured a good number of songs from the first album. Though as is usually the way, they felt free to play around with their arrangements. I'm thinking of Mine For Life, my favourite song from Living in America, which received a thinner, more strained and filtered treatment here than it has on the album. Must admit I'd prefer to hear that one more lush and sweeping... but that's as far as any disappointment with the show goes. Living in America, the song itself, was straight and punchy - I still want to know how well that went down in the US - maybe I've just misread the lyrics(!). And then there's Hit Me!, which I find weird; I mean you assume it's metaphorical in an obvious way, but lyrically it really does pursue the masochistic physical stuff. I thought hearing it live would make it clearer, but coupled with Maja's very physical performance, the song has some punch (groan) . . . so it's still kinda confusing.
The show was built around the new songs. No disappointment at all, from Song With a Mission onwards. If anything made the show for me, it was hearing my two favourite songs live, the appropriately melodramatic Queen of Apology and the magnificent Ego. Considering how much the band must have played these songs over the last year, they show no signs of being sick of them yet. Felix on guitar, Jesper on keyboards, Johan on bass, Fredrik on drums, and Maja on vocals, all with questionable haircuts :)
Not least Maja Ivarsson. She has great power on disk, but you never know, do you, until you see someone live. In the flesh, she turned out to be one of those singers with a powerful voice out of all proportion to her tiny physique. Not that there's any weakness there; apart from being athletic on stage, respect is due to her for the fearless stage dive she did at one point - I can't really think of any other female front person who'd be as willing to do that! And her voice is frankly awesome. I mean, The Sounds' music never slows up, and they gave us a good full hour, and she has to belt it out for most of that. There was only one point when it sounded like things were getting a bit ragged, just before half way through, when she left them to it for the end of a song and went offstage. I thought to myself, 'Ah, she'll be giving her voice a short rest, maybe drink something to soothe her vocal chords...' Not a bit of it. You could sort of see a little offstage what she was really doing - lighting up a fag! And she came back as forceful and impressive as ever. Scary!
You have to wonder sometimes at the way the music scene works now. Definitely a case of parallel worlds. I mean, The Sounds are unknown here. And unless I've missed some cringe-making appearance on some kiddie pop show, they still will be after they've done their tour here. The radio shows will largely ignore them, because of course their music isn't 'cool' or trendy. But this show was full, sold out in fact. It helps that Manchester is now a cosmopolitan city, with Europe's largest student population, so it wouldn't have been difficult to rustle up a crowd of Swedes to pack the venue. And they did come. My guess is that they formed a swathe from the left hand side right round the front. A Swedish flag was waved: hopefully the owner wasn't too attached to it, because at the end of the show Maja indulged in a tug of war and yanked it away, walking off stage with it wrapped round her.
Left:- Felix and Jesper encoring
Only prejudice could have prevented you enjoying this show. The Sounds are superb at making upbeat noise. I think they've the talent and the performance skill to work a bigger venue well, but they were very good in the tight confines of the Academy 3. In the cold light of day, on record, it can seem unsubtle, but live is where it needs to be. Me, I love the albums, they're great for those moods when you need a little pepping up. Drink helps as well . . . you've got to say they put on a great party.
Oh yeah - what's with all the bloody glowsticks?