Detroit,Michigan(April 25,2022)-Iceland’s premier indie rock export Kaleo brought an evening of soulful tunes to the Fillmore Detroit on Wednesday evening as a makeup date to a previous rescheduled performance on the Fight or Flight World Tour. Built largely around the musical prowess of powerhouse vocalist J.J. (Jökull Júlíusson), the indie rock outfit displayed an impressive array of influence and emotional pull, with tracks ranging from silky ballads to soulful psychedelic references reminiscent of some of the best album rockers of the early 1970’s.
JJ Julius Son (Jökull Júlíusson), positively dominated the stage from the opening hit with his brooding smirk that exuded a quiet confidence rarely seen in young artists. Backed by drummer David Antonsson, bassist/keyboardist Daniel Kristjansson, guitarist Rubin Pollock and “everything” man Þorleifur Gaukur Davíðsson (steel guitar/harmonica/mandolin/congas,) that form a tight knit group of high functioning musicians that create the sound that the band is noted for. Kaleo has loaded up with a impressive production on this extended world tour complete with background singers and a dedicated harmonica player that allows them to emulate the studio sound that their fans are familiar with. The band, which has been around since 2013, has released two albums and rose to notoriety in Iceland before having a No. 1 single on the Billboard Alternative Charts in 2016 and receiving a Grammy nomination for their track “No Good,” a mesmerizing cut off their debut album “A/B.”
After a scintillating opening set by special guests Bones Owens, the capacity crowd came alive once again as KALEO opened their headlining performance with the high octane cuts “Break My Baby” and “Alter Ego” off the album A/B. Slowing down the tempo a bit with “I Can’t Go On Without You,” Júlíusson whistled the familiar opening while he strummed his beautiful custom resonator which features mother-of-pearl inlays that depict the Icelandic Guardians. Júlíusson also adorned this instrument and several others throughout the night with feather creations from Jenny Dayco, who has been working with him for years.
Keeping it light, Davíðsson and Antonsson moved up to the stage front mics on mandolin and tambourine/shaker, respectively, and the band broke into an acoustic, carefree rendition of “Automobile,” with everyone on stage sharing vocal duties. Júlíusson remained on acoustic guitar for “Backbone,” and then switched to electric for “Hey Gringo,” bringing Jolia and Rucker front and center as they got the crowd engaged in a singalong. What truly struck a chord with the fans was the first five cuts of the set were from the debut album A/B and was the perfect foundation for the band to “stretch their legs” on in the Motorcity.
While the band remains tucked solidly within their indie-rock shell, their overall versatility continues to impress everyone including their staunchest proponents. There were moments during extended play-throughs that had a few brief nods to 1970s prog rock productions. The outro to “Hot Blood” had touches of Pink Floyd’s monumental LP “Dark Side of the Moon,” while other instances the band hit on a very noticeable Rush track during another mini jam session between songs. Some purist may frown upon the similarities to the rock legends, Kaleo’s comparisons served only to enhance the vibrancy of the overall production both sonically and historically.
A couple of the bands more notable ballads “Backbone” and “I Walk on Water” were the highlight reel standouts of the night. Stepping back into the heavier side with the powerful rocker “Hot Blood,” Júlíusson then sat down at the piano for the eloquent “Brother Run Fast” culminating by segueing directly into “I Walk On Water,” which began at the piano then switched to guitar at the midway point. There were audible cheers for the slow burner “Skinny,” a powerful social commentary and a topic that may have struck a chord with many in the sold out Fillmore Detroit.The band closed the evening with an encore of “No Good,” the heavy, reverb-drenched indie rock track with its Jack White inspired guitar melody and resonating drum tracks. A pure fan favorite that had the packed house dancing to the beloved night ending track.
J.J. and Kaleo, with their pop accessibility and musical prowess, surely have promise for a long career ahead of them. Every aspect of what the fans saw in Detroit worked. From the sync of the lights to the big sounds emulating from the stage, drums, harmonica solos, guitar and thundering bass lines — every minute concept fell into the perfect place. Kaleo is a band where each member had a distinct part in every song and live, they were flawless together — a big feat for a band on their first big U.S. tour.
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The Fillmore Detroit: