A single light display — resembling a kind of distorted music bar void of notes or clefs — stretched across the back of the stage and illuminated Slim’s otherwise pitch-black room Sept. 1. When the dark silhouettes of Peter Bjorn and John glided on stage and tore into the catchy “Heart of Glass”-inspired riff of “A Long Goodbye,” the crowd erupted and mirrored the indie pop veterans’ unwavering energy.
It’s been five years since the Swedish trio’s power-pop record Gimme Some and 10 years since its international breakthrough Writer’s Block, but with the release of Breakin’ Point in June, the group introduced even more infectious songs to the mix — songs that seemed tailor-made for a live show and songs that you find yourself randomly humming to for days after.
Peter Morén, Björn Yttling and John Eriksson, who sported yellow neck scarves, baseball caps and navy jackets with their names embroidered on the front, expertly combined the playful and professional, completely elevating the polished produced sounds of the band’s album to a live setting.
Thanks to PB&J’s eclectic hooks and diverse influences, the band never defaulted to a tiresome, repetitive pop formula. Upbeat synth-heavy numbers such as “What You Talking About?” and “In this Town” took notes from the best of the ‘80s, while “Nostalgic Intellect,” reminiscent of early Beatles, didn’t break the momentum despite its calmer tempo. Instead, Peter Bjorn and John directed the leftover energy to a more swaying, laidback atmosphere.
Morén best encapsulated the nonstop liveliness on the stage. The lead guitarist and singer’s spirit was boundless as he spun in circles while executing a sunny guitar solo during “Eyes.” Swaying to the video game beats of “It Don’t Move Me,” Peter suddenly jumped into the crowd, weaving his way through the venue as he sang of a hopeless, disintegrating relationship. At one point, the frontman set his guitar down between songs and started running in place.
“I have to keep up,” he explained as he bobbed up and down across the stage.
In the back, the crooked music bar light display injected another layer to the spectacle, as neon pink blinked in an indiscernible pattern one instance to cyan and scarlet flashes in another. During “Young Folks,” the hit that brought them to mainstream success, each string raced with a pulsating orange that created a mesmerizing wave effect.
“Young Folks,” which turned 10 years old this year after being featured in countless television shows and ads, was Peter Bjorn and John’s penultimate song and the unsurprising favorite at Slim’s. Screams burst in the air as soon as the famous whistling riff emerged from the speakers. Bathed in blue light, touring member Freja Drakenberg fulfilled the female role, originally sung by Victoria Bergsman of the Concretes. And when PB&J launched into the chorus, Slim’s walls reverberated with the sound of everyone in the space singing along.
Peter Bjorn and John’s choice to close the show with the less bubbly, more rock-driven “I Know You Don’t Love Me,” rather than the clear crowd favorite was unexpected but marked PB&J’s desire to shed its reputation as the band that plays that whistling song. Featuring an expansive guitar solo and shoegaze vocals, it gave a new flavor to a night full of irresistible pop choruses. By the end, Peter left the guitar ringing out with the last note and immediately jumped into the pit. But instead of dancing through the crowd as he did before, Peter dashed through the fans and parked himself at the merch booth, ready to sign CDs and T-shirts.
This abrupt move was a little strange and prematurely broke the spell that Peter Bjorn and John had spent the night crafting. Or, rather, it may have very well been a perfect display of the essence of Peter Bjorn and John and its unofficial promise to “never stop moving.”
Contact Adrienne Lee at [email protected].