Armed with a guitar and a winsome smile, Sondre Lerche was well prepared to capture the hearts of fans with his show at the Great American Music Hall on Tuesday night. The Norwegian singer-songwriter has made a name for himself with his smooth blend of pleasing harmonies and soulful vocalizations. Delightfully enough, what comes across as crisp and clear in the studio version translated to epic proportions in a live rendition. Thrashing guitars and belting out pitch-perfect screams, Lerche lived the stereotypical rock star fantasy, and immensely enjoyed himself, at that.
What struck concert-goers immediately was Lerche’s steadfast connection with his admirers. Sure, the intimate quarters of GAMH helped to enhance the effect but his amicability and boyish charm was both instant and infectious. Instead of hiding out backstage and letting the openers warm up the crowd, Lerche made a guest appearance before his set, singing along to the dreamy pop melodies of Nightlands.
Lerche had his work cut out for him, as he followed a lineup that included the eclectic yet insanely catchy experimentation of Kishi Bashi (from Of Montreal). But if there were ever any doubts about how the subdued air of Lerche’s discography will hold up in concert, they quickly vaporized the second he took the stage. Launching into the uplifting “Private Caller,” he brushed away the crowd’s weekday lethargy with his exuding enthusiasm and boyish charm.
Despite acting as a solo artist, Lerche has built a witty rapport with his band, something that was instantly evident onstage and rather amusing to witness. Aided by Nightlands’ Dave Hartley, Kishi Bashi and drummer David Heilman, Lerche set out to prove that his music can be both poignant yet — to put it simply — plain, old fun. Lerche was the perfect entertainer at this intimate gathering, beaming and conversing with concertgoers. “There is a Twitter war going on right now,” he joked, referring to the social network battle between Bashi and Heilman and then proceeded to let the two opposing sides verbally fight it out. It was tidbits like these that made Lerche incredibly down-to-earth and more endearing to fans, if that’s even possible.
Though the casual conversations and small talk were a pleasant surprise, Lerche’s main focus was still thankfully showcasing his music. And boy, was it a showcase. It’s difficult to appraise where his energy went towards, jumping all over the stage or belting out powerful refrains. Lerche managed to find the ideal balance between magnifying a heartfelt intimacy and delivering a genuine vivacity. In lulling numbers such as “Domino” and “Coliseum Town,” Lerche’s voice was harmony perfected, evoking empathy with his stunning vocal range and unbridled emotion. But in other, more upbeat demonstrations of his talent, Lerche displayed an unexpected chaos. Take “Heartbeat Radio,” for example. Lerche began with on a tame enough note, setting the audience swaying to the violin swells and syncopated rhythms. After the bridge, however, Lerche let loose with the guitar, throwing around impromptu riffs while Heilman launched heavy-hitting, ground-shaking beats. One final guitar thrash and cymbal crash later, Lerche shifted back to his sweet, bashfully-smiling self.
With seven full-length releases on his resume, Lerche is no stranger to the music industry. But his experience has certainly paid off, as he has an almost flawless control over his performances. Of course, Lerche’s voice is still as enthralling and pitch-perfect live as on record but what truly solidifies his reputation is his constant enhancement of his sound — whether it’s through his down-to-earth personality or rock star ambitions. In a perfectly synced duet with the crowd, Lerche muses “Oh, what a world this life would be.” And after his lively engagement at the GAMH, we are certain that any world with Sondre Lerche in it would be wonderful indeed.
Cynthia Kang is the arts editor.