The fortunes of the cosmos are favouring Iceland right now. For travellers, it’s a desirable bucket-list vacation spot; for Game of Thrones fans, it is home base for the Wildlings beyond the wall; for soccer fans it’s a lucky place with a lucky team. And for music fans, it’s a cauldron of creativity. Icelandic band Kaleo, high on a wave of it-ness thanks to their hit, Way Down We Go, is also having a moment. Kaleo is a four-man rock band who play a well-crafted brand of straight-up rock n’ roll. Playing their first-ever Toronto show, they sold-out the Danforth Music Hall.
Show openers Roses and Revolutions warmed the crowd up with a set that got better as it progressed. Their songs are light and melodic. For one song the duo, keyboardist/vocalist Alyssa Coco and guitarist Matt Merritt swapped the acoustic guitar for an electric, which was sonically more interesting and perhaps the turning point in their set.
Kaleo came to the stage with no fanfare. If you are only familiar with their current radio hit, you might be surprised to find that their sound is solid, blues-based rock. Kaleo is currently based out of Texas, and that seems fitting given their blues and folk influences. The first few songs of the night, leaned to the bluesier end of the spectrum musically and thematically. Lead singer, Jökull Júlíusson’s voice is rich and warm, but rasps in the right moments bringing grit to to the music. One tune, Automobile, is a country-influenced ditty that had fans singing along. The next song, All the Pretty Girls, also had the room adding their voices. From there Kaleo moved to harder, rockier tunes.
The band, Júlíusson (who also plays guitar), drummer Davíð Antonsson, bassist Daníel Ægir Kristjánsson and guitarist Rubin Pollock did not offer much stage banter; they seemed content to forge through their songs with steady conviction. Their own music is reminiscent of 70s era rockers, but they still have the ability to surprise. They performed an inspired cover of the 1966 Cher song Bang Bang (famously covered by Nancy Sinatra that same year). The almost Eddie Vedder-like quality in Júlíusson’s voice played nicely in the interpretation. This band is good at what they do and their bar-room rock sensibility is filling a niche that needs to be filled.