The Late Great /w A Million Pineapples @ Blårock Cafe, Tromsø
by Emīls Vilcāns
Packing a crowded show at Tromsø’s Blårock Cafe, the local 6 piece folk-rock act The Late Great present themselves just as solid as their debut album – Songs From The 21st Century. Supported by the young all-girl indie-rock act from Tromsø – A Million Pineapples, the evening of 25th of November is colored with musical diversity and a masterful energy outbreak.
Located in the very center of the beautiful Northern-Norway’s city of Tromsø, the Blårock Cafe stands in the same blue building as time passes since 1991. Considerably being the best place for rock’n’roll and burgers in the Northern region of the country, the place hosts loads of bands throughout the year – both local and ones from abroad. When walking the streets of Tromsø, I always somehow manage to slip by the sky-colored building, never really having the momentum to slip in for a peek. Each time passing with the utmost curiosity about the place, the same thing for me applies for the hastily rising local folk-rock act The Late Great. With their debut album Songs From the 21st Century released in the early-2016, up until now, I never had the possibility to catch them live. Welcoming the fresh, practically green, local indie-rock act A Million Pineapples as their support, the evening in a whole is a huge discovery. Upon entry, handing in the coat and receiving a long-lasting ink-stamp on the right hand, the place, at first, turns out to be a tad misconceiving whereas the actual stage is. However, the dim-lighted bar space and 60s/70s styled gig posters all around give the place a nice rock-den aesthetic. Finally, after sensing that the show is about to go afoot, the stage is found out to be located on the second floor, where you’re met with a large Iggy Pop on the ceiling and a hypnotic look from no other than Frank Zappa on the wall, amongst other famous musicians.
Welcomed on-stage by a round of applause, A Million Pineapples take their stance with a sensible joyful nervousness. And with a quick countdown by Mie Bergh, these 4 young girls burst into their indie-rock’ish characters performed with a hint of punk’ish spirit. Having to deal with a unexpected broken string at the very start, it is noticeable as a set-back for Mie to properly get back into the first song, yet, she handles the situation with a chat towards the audience. Understandably, everyone shares a laugh and the show continues on to a ballad typed song, presumably, written by Ida Solvang who transits from the guitar to the synth and takes over the vocals. The band unfolds all its cards by playing 4 songs, proving the feeling that the band is completely new and has come together only recently. Yet, during these pieces, the Pineapple girls present themselves in a good fashion, not letting the simplicity of indie-pop-rock take it’s toll entirely. By intertwining some breakdowns and unexpected pauses within these songs, they widen their compositional scale reaching for a more technical output. Even despite sitting on those basic jazzy drum-parts by Leonie Krupka, those surprising interludes make the tracks even exciting. The best example of the 4 songs being the last one, this piece includes a short bass interlude by Johanne Blix in which Mie also pushes her smoky vocals towards high-pitch. All in all, with a few set-backs, rhythmic goofs and missed notes, the show of A Million Pineapples was an unexpected uncut gem. With their obvious enthusiasm and fun whilst at it, these girls are heading in the right direction, and hopefully, a debut EP or LP in the nearest future.
Soon enough the time had finally come to welcome the rising folk-rock act The Late Great upon the stepped-up space. Abandoning the thought that they might actually be Late to get upon, the six men, basically leaving no spare space on the small stage, are only left with the objective of living up to the name Great. Originally being the sole project of the ex-Vishnu vocalist Tor Thomassen, the band’s sound-scape captain has gathered together a super tight and on-point band. Collecting some of Tromsø’s finest, Tor is accompanied on stage by Ottar Tøllefsen (Cazadores; The Fat Rats) on drums, Ariel Joshua Sivertsen (Cazadores; The Fernets) on bass, the legendary bearded and skillful Erik Nilsson (Mount Washington; The Northern Lies) on keyboard/organ, John Lupton (Elias Jung) on percussions and Stian Grønbech (Elias Jung; Vishnu; Då Dylan) on guitar. And right from the start, opening with one of Tor’s newly written songs Another Trap, the band altogether presents a worked-out and vigorous out-put. Proceeding to their most-successful A Young Lover’s Dream, this song warms up the crowd as it endures in the sing-along. Igniting in his signature harmonica playing, …Lover’s Dream and especially Jinx share a resemblance to the works of no other than Bob Dylan himself. Yet, it’s not the harmonica by itself that brings up the legend on the scene, it’s also the way Tor casts his vocal energy that bares the resemblance. Coming to the energetically funky piece Heartland Queen, the key to this one is definitely the leading keyboard work of Erik Nilsson throughout the song.
Proceeding to the runner Cool Cat Blues, this is the most fun and electrifying track both on the album and live. Sounding as if a folk-rock re-edition of Ace of Spades by Motörhead, the band really loosens up to a jam sounding out-put, gaining the sound of those 60s/70s bands Tor had been listening to whilst writing the album, presumably with Blue Cheer being in the midst. Rolling over to New Morning New Moon, the song starts out as a organ fueled train ride with a nice feel of the added extra percussion by John Lupton. Yet, it doesn’t really grasp that far, sounding a bit too repetitive to get into completely. Contrary to Tor’s previous project Vishnu, a guitar solo isn’t that common within Songs of the 21st Century, New Morning New Moon having the most distinct one where combined with a killer organ solo for the outro. Reaching towards the closure of the show, the band present two more newly written songs – Reservoir of Memories and There is a Place, one of which being a drum and percussion heavy ride that I for one didn’t expect. That said, the joint effort between Ottar Tøllefsen’s drums and Lupton’s extra tom percussion shines through the whole gig, adding the extra dynamic and thundering feel. And with a nice, delicate piano intro, the band drifts into their most atmospherically gripping piece – Our Empire. Cautious through out, the ambiance is built on a wild-west theme with distant, tasteful guitar interludes by Stian Grønbech. Finding myself singing along with the unison, the band snaps out of the gentle moment and returns back to the sandy desert.
With a sensation in his voice and a gratitude towards the audience for attending and listening, Tor thanks the applauding bunch once more and the band steps away. Playing 12 songs that stretched for something like an hour and a half, the band put on a solid show in regard to their debut album as well as introducing their fans to the new material. Whilst not pushing any major boundaries within the folk-rock genre, The Late Great is still a band to look up to in the sense of the liveliness and the energy they radiate. With songs like New Morning New Moon and Gold On Our Minds not doing that much for me live, personally, the band’s set-list is still packed with diversity that will make the time fly by with a glass risen high for the wild open dream. In the end, liking what they do or not, it all really depends on whether you’re hip enough to understand!
Photo credit goes out to: Daniel Lilleeng