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ISSUE 119 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/14/2005

Openers trump Bravery

By Peter Farrell
Variety Editor

Friday, October 14, 2005

This Saturday, Skoglund Auditorium played host to one of modern rock’s biggest buzz bands The Bravery. Too bad the heavily promoted, ill-attended fall concert reaffirmed an enduring rock axiom: Hype rarely equals quality.

The Welsh hard-rockers People in Planes began the show promptly at 7:30 p.m. with a short set. The five-piece band tore through songs from their latest, self-titled EP. Front-loaded with heavy guitars and deep drums, the band recalled the late 70s riff-rock of Nazareth or Humble Pie.

Propelled by frontman Gareth Jones’ deep baritone, the stylish quintet played a passionate, but ultimately uninspiring old-fashioned rawk with a few modern flourishes.

Most of the audience seemed apathetic to the performance, even though the Wayne’s World-era flannel and torn jeans look would prove to be a nice contrast to the hyper-fashionable stage shows the crowd was about to encounter.

After People In Planes, the Swedish punk rockers known as the (International) Noise Conspiracy (INC) stormed the stage in matching red, black and white outfits. In a barrage of energy and showmanship, the politically conscious quartet bombarded the audience with beefy power chords and tight bass lines steeped in the bluesy punk tradition of the Stooges.

Vocalist Dennis Lyxzén wowed the crowd with his vast repertoire of rock star antics: somersaulting, jumping off amplifier stacks and thrusting his pelvis and hips in unnatural directions. He also found the time to preach his politics to the frenzied audience with frequent allusions to “the incompetence of our current commander-in-chief.”

And what would an INC performance be without a little political grandstanding? After all, as Lyxzén himself noted, “We’re probably the first European commie band to hit to your school.”

Appropriately enough, the band ended their hour-long set standing united across the front of the stages, fists raised high in the air, while a recording of “Power to the People” boomed in the background. The crowd responded with rapturous applause, less for communism than in appreciation of a truly colossal effort on the part of the band.

The Bravery took the stage shortly thereafter. Decked out in traditional 80s rocker garb, the band played a set of new-wave revivalist songs that drew mostly from their eponymous debut album.

Currently engaged in their first headlining tour of the United States, the group has already established an impressive stage show replete with five low-level strobe lights and other assorted lit goodies that flash in rhythm to the music.

Unfortunately, the elaborate spectacle The Bravery boys worked hard to create lacked the substance needed to flesh out their considerable style. The weaknesses that plagued their debut album – white-bread melodies, poor mixing techniques and impotent songcraft – could not be covered up by any amount of flashy excess.

The set was not without merit, though. Strong versions of “Fearless,” “Rites of Spring” and yes, “An Honest Mistake,” energized the crowd and channeled the bubbly inner-spirit of new-wave in a modern context.

In addition, an earnest rendition of U2’s “An Cat Dubh (The Black Cat)” pleasantly surprised the audience. A newer song the band had been working on, “Oh Glory,” snuck its way into the encore and also excited with a meaty power-pop chorus that had many people singing along by the final measure.

But ultimately, The Bravery steamrolled through a set that quickly blurred into one uninspiring keyboard-guitar mash up after another. One couldn’t help but feel like this strain of revivalist rock has been done better elsewhere, some other time.

The band lacks the tongue-in-cheek charm of Scotland’s Franz Ferdinand or even the punk-y snarl of The Futureheads, and their music suffers from lack of personality. The worst songs on The Bravery sound cold and mechanic, as if the songs were painstakingly constructed and pieced together to mask the facelessness of the whole enterprise. These songs did not improve in a live setting.

As Saturday’s concert illustrated, The Bravery is content to embody style over substance, pose in place of sincerity. Even super communist punk rockers can’t save that band.

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