At first glance, the similarities between Sondre Lerche and his support band on his current seven-week tour might be less than apparent. Take a closer look at the Norwegian songwriting virtuoso and his tour mates, Kansas City’s finest, the Golden Republic, and, well, the reason they’ve been put together on the same stage still doesn’t exactly jump out at you.
Over the course of the show on Wednesday night at the famed Troubadour in West Hollywood, I puzzled over what these two artists have in common that warrants a second tour together in as many years.
One thing they have in common is passion: you can see fire in the eyes of the members of the Golden Republic and a subtle but compelling intensity in the unassumingly sweet face of Sondre Lerche. These are people doing exactly what they love, people who are savoring the joy of making music.
Then there are the brains behind the musical muscle: both Sondre Lerche and The Golden Republic are unabashedly intelligent – they write smartly constructed songs with clever lyrics. Lerche’s turn of phrase, in particular, is so wickedly artful one must wonder if it is part of the reason he has not yet found a wider audience; one rarely hears pop music so smart and elegant, and it’s not difficult to imagine mainstream radio being perplexed about what to do with it.
The Golden Republic started Thursday’s show with a set comprised of all four tracks from their recent People EP, adding in a few tracks from the forthcoming Astralwerks full length (to be released on February 8, 2005), and rounding things out with a few older songs. A particular standout was an older song with the hammering sing-along chorus (“they’ve got a robot that can do what you do.”). The EP is one of my favorite discs from 2004, and the live performance acts as confirmation of just how good this band really is – if there is a new American band to watch in 2005, that band is The Golden Republic.
Headliner Sondre Lerche came out next. “The thing about Sondre Lerche,” the smoky-voiced bartender had told us, “is that he looks like this young guy. And then he comes out, and he has this whole lounge attitude.”
Lerche was only 19 years old when he released his major label debut in 2002. The bartender was right – there is something uncanny about a guy in his early twenties writing songs that sound like jazz standards. Watching Lerche is like watching magic; his demeanor is warm, humble and friendly, his voice is unfaltering and sure through some very complicated chromatic passages, and his demeanor is that of a seasoned performer. When he throws in the occasional actual standard – the live version of Night and Day he included on his EP, for instance, the fit is so perfect that if you weren’t a Cole Porter fan, you could be forgiven for thinking the song was written by Sondre Lerche.