Sunday, November 18, 2007

Concert Review: Architecture in Helsinki

Architecture in Helsinki played at the North Star Bar, on October 10th, to a sweat-drenched and happy crowd of bouncy, dancing fans. The Australian sextet was originally scheduled to play at the Starlight Ballroom, but the show had a last-minute switch to the Brewerytown location. The show was set up by R5 Productions, a local Philadelphia outfit pulling in great bands from around the world to play in our city.

The North Star Bar was extremely crowded, full of happy, young kids wearing retro clothes and glasses, many with scarves tying their hair back. Others were with flowing peasant dresses, while still more wore suspenders and other wistful accessories. This was my first chance to see the band live, having just started listening to them last year, and I was not disappointed. They opened with a lively rendition of “One Heavy February,” which I thought was even more adorable when heard live. The song got the crowd moving.

Architecture in Helsinki continued with a great mix of old and new songs. From their first album, Fingers Crossed, they played “Fumble” and “Like A Call.” From In Case We Die, they played “Wishbone” – the best part of which was when Kellie Sutherland sang, “We’ll play dead! We’ll play dead!” and the other members of the band, in deep voices, replied with “We’ll play deadly!”

They also played “Do the Whirlwind” (this one was a crowd favorite), “The Cemetary” and “It’s 5!” all of which had the crowd dancing and singing along. From their latest album, Places Like This, they played “Hold Music,” “Like It or Not,” “Nothing’s Wrong,” and wrapped things up with “Heart It Races,” during which everyone was singing along.

It was a true gift to see them in action, especially during “Hold Music”; the entire band was so into the music. It illustrated the amazing point of how much Cameron Bird sounds like David Byrne, especially with the colorful lyrics, including “I bought us a dragon/to lighten the load/he’s keeping us warm/the blood keep flowing to your head!”

They are full of an enchanting energy and wonderment that matches the love and enthusiasm of their unique sound. They are like a whimsical, nostalgic version of Talking Heads, with a never-ending supply of instruments and enthusiasm. In between songs, they dashed around the stage, switching instruments and, in our case, they didn’t have a set list, so they were making it up as they went along. It was amazing to watch the controlled chaos and the cohesion the band members have with one another. It seemed like every time I stopped paying attention to what Kellie was doing, some fantastic sound would come from her side of the stage – once, the sound of a train whistle; another time, upbeat glockenspiel notes. The highlight of this ordered chaos was when Gus Franklin, who had originally started out on the drums, pulled a trombone casually from behind him and started playing it, much to the cheering crowd’s delight. In spite of the surging, sweating crowd, the lack of air conditioning, and the last-minute venue change, the show was definitely worth every moment, and I recommend them to anyone looking for some new and interesting music to check out.

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