When an act comes through town and plays the same venue as the last time and has the same opener, it’s not exactly a recipe for uncontainable excitement. It’s irrational, but when I heard it was RÃ¶yksopp at the Regency in San Francisco with Jon Hopkins opening, it was kind of a yawn. Indeed, when Hopkins showed up and began tapping and twisting away, there was a little déjÃ vu. That’s just it though — Hopkins came on, something clicked, and I immediately remembered just how unmissable this show was.
Hopkins went on for half an hour, delivering a well-assembled set of his ambient electronic music; like the headliners, he fed the crowd a healthy balance of dance and downtempo selections. The crowd ate him up, and while I like variety, he has my permission to open the next RÃ¶yksopp show and the next (maybe not three).
RÃ¶yksopp, like bona fide rock stars, decided to make the crowd wait through 45 minutes of between-time downer music before playing the first note. Luckily, that first note belonged to the classic “Eple”, and the night started off right. The night continued to be right as the Norwegian electronic duo churned out four Melody A.M. tracks in a row. Now, being that this tour is in support of the duo’s fourth album, Senior, starting off with four Melody A.M. tunes could have meant one of two things: the veteran band is doing its best to ignore the old stuff, or there will be lots of Melody A.M. stuff to mesh with Senior‘s chill vibes.
The answer ended up being both and neither; while this was not the non-stop dance-floor filler the Junior tour was, the group didn’t play a single tune from Senior. Instead, the guys focused on the crowd-pleasers, a couple surprises, and putting on a show.
The show included a talented bassist/guitarist combo in pajamas, frequent album guest and master impressionist Anneli Drecker, and the pair of Svein Berge and TorbjÃ¸rn Brundtland, with all the energy of a couple of hyperactive toddlers. All five engaged in constant costume changes — the ax-men began with pillow cases over their heads and ended with…some other crap…over their heads; Berge sported a Daft Punk-shaming robot helmet during a duet version of “The Girl and the Robot”; Brundtland at one point pranced around wearing a paper bag on his head, looking like the walking trees from Lord of the Rings. Drecker’s default costume is an unsightly black jumpsuit, but she made up for it by wearing lights, snakes, and all types of masks; her most inspired costumes mimicked those of Karin Dreijer Andersson, usually while she was doing Andersson’s parts (“Tricky Tricky”, “What Else Is There?”). And with everything happening on-stage, it was easy to miss RÃ¶yksopp’s impressive light work, which was quietly a huge factor in making a quality show. Truly, in an ideal world, America catches on and RÃ¶yksopp plays the Super Bowl instead of the goddamn Black Eyed Peas.
While it was a tad surprising not to hear anything off a touring group’s latest album, it wasn’t necessarily disappointing. Given how rarely RÃ¶yksopp plays in America, those really aren’t the songs anyone comes to hear; they aren’t the reason this show sold out. Of course, if democracy came into play, Melody A.M. would be absent from the duo’s sets. The crowd was relatively quiet until Junior opener “Happy Up Here” came on — suddenly the dancing and even some drunken moshing arose, and did not let up the rest of the show.
Every performer on stage was excellent, but Drecker deserves special note for being the center of most every highlight. She somehow pulled off a superb cover of Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights”, not an easy task. Her spot-on Robyn and Dreijer Andersson voices are rather spooky, but her performance of her own “Sparks” was mesmerizing.
Complaints are hard to come by for a flawless performance and a choice setlist. Along with “Wuthering Heights”, new one “Have Another Cherry”, a Steve Reich remix, and the climax “Alpha Male”, RÃ¶yksopp refused to leave. Sure, it was planned, but it was entertaining — the first false alarm was the end of “Poor Leno”; they didn’t bother leaving the stage after waving goodbye. After the crowd demanded an encore, RÃ¶yksopp came back for two more, before leaving again. At this point, people were expecting the house lights and music to come on and filing out, but RÃ¶yksopp came back on anyway. The duo ended the night with a performance of its new remix of “The Immortals”, from Kings of Leon’s latest album, Come Around Sundown.
If it’s possible to complain about a second encore, then it’s fair to complain about this one. Kind of slow, good that Caleb is drowned out, but not a song to cap off a great night.
RÃ¶yksopp has been to the West Coast twice in 16 months, which is promising considering the duo hadn’t come around for four years before that. Both Berge and Brundtland, but especially Brundtland, were ecstatic to be in San Francisco; the latter said so at least four times. They insisted, as they did in 2009, that they would come more often — I hope it’s true, and that no one else takes these amazing Norwegians for granted.
Remind Me (Someone Else’s Radio Remix)
Steve Reich – Electric Counterpoint: III. Fast (RÃ¶yksopp’s Milde Salve)
Happy Up Here
The Girl and the Robot
Wuthering Heights (Kate Bush cover)
Have Another Cherry
What Else Is There?
Only This Moment
Remix of Kings of Leon’s “The Immortals”