Dance With A Stranger were one of Norway’s biggest acts in the mid 80’s until they disbanded in 1994. They released several CDs, and had top hits in Norway, Sweden and also other European countries. Since 1994 they have had reunions, but now they have started what they say is definitely their last concert tour. Some 25 concerts in 3 months. and then it is over I saw them yesterday at Åsgårdstrand.
Originally Dance WIth A Stranger were four, singer Oyvind Elgenes, or Elg (“Moose”), as he goes by, Frode Alnaes, Yngve Moe and Bjorn Jenssen. Last year Yngve Moe died, and Per Mathisen is now their bass player. On this tour they also have Morten Huse on keyboards, Martin Windstad on percussion, Hilde Norbakken and Aashild Mundal on backing vocals.
A few words about Åsgårdstrand. This is were Edvard Munch painted many of his most famous pictures. The park and beach where Dance WIth A Stranger played is part of many of his motives, among them Hagen (“The Garden”). He also painted Pikene på broen (“The Girls on the Bridge”, Melankoli (“Melanchology”) and several others. On the picture above, the stage is to the left, and the small bay in front plus the pier to the right are the same as on the painting The Garden. Today Åsgårdstrand is a summer place for the boating people, and it is an idyllic place with lots of atmosphere.
The occasion for yesterday’s concert at Åsgårdstrand was their yearly local festival, and this concert is so far their biggest single event. It was a success, with about 1200 paying guests. The total number of inhabitants in Åsgårdstrand is less than one thousand. Most of the audience were between 40 and 55 years old, meaning they grew up with Dance With A Stranger, and they knew most of the band’s songs. Quite early in the concert the audience sang along, and on the last 7-8 songs the audience bordered on ecstasy, probably also induced by rich amounts of wine and beer.
What makes Dance With A Stranger stand out among the many Norwegian bands from the last 30 years, is the voice of Elg. He has a strong and characteristic voice that fits well with the songs. The other important part of the band, is Frode Alnaes’ melodies and his guitar playing. Live he is also the band’s comedian, always attentive to the audience and binding together the songs with funny comments and jokes.
Equally important for their sound are Bjorn Jenssen’s excellent drumming and Yngve Moes eminent bass playing. Their new bass player, Per Mathisen is one of the best live bassists I have seen and heard, and he fits nicely in with the band.
So what about their songs? Dance WIth A Stranger played for almost two hours, and went through 21 songs including a potpourri of some of their B-sides, plus two Alnaes instrumentals – Pungjazz, and the beautiful Vitea Lux which many artists have recorded, among them Ole Edvard Antonsen and Sissel Kyrkjeboe.
Everyone in the audience knew that the band would sing Everyone Needs A Friend, their first and biggest hit, and they played it as the second last song of the ordinary set. The lyrics to this and many of their other songs are written by Jeff Wasserman, who celebrated his 60 year birthday yesterday, and which is an important part of Dance WIth A Stranger’s success. He has also written lyrics for many other artists and is one of our finest lyricists.
Before Everyone Needs A Friend we got many of their other hits, and the ended the set with Invisible Man, the hit from their best-selling second album. Extras were their self-titled song Dance With A Stranger plus Curtis Mayfield’s classic Move On Up. On the rest of the tour they will feature horn players, and this song will definitely profit from trumpet and sax.
I have known the members of Dance With A Stranger for many years, and have seen and heard them in numerous different musical settings. I missed seeing them live as a band, and it was a thrill to be at the concert yesterday. They confirm the saying that a good musician will always be a good musician. The songs were tight, played with that extra energy you get in good live settings, and the band was extra tight and vital. The bantering from Fode is that extra touch that made everyone in the audience feel that the band cared about them. Here are the dates for their tour.
Here is the set list for the concert: In the Atmosphere, No More Sorrow, Under This Sun, Our Moment in Time, The Last Dance, All The Love, It Wasn’t Me, Potpourri, Pungjazz, Vitea Lux, Boys And Girls, African Road, Stop Looking For Love, Living In The Future, Only Love, Long December Nights, Let Go, Everyone Needs A Friend, Invisible MAn, Dance With A Stranger, Move On Up.
All pictures are © Per Ole Hagen and must not be used without written permission.