Saturday at Bergen Fest had the best weather so far. Sunny, warm, and no wind. The music was equally good, Highasakite, Billy Bragg, Graham Parker & The Rumours, Lars Vaular, Lana Del Rey and many more. (Picture above: Lana Del Rey poses for the iPhones of the girls in the front row)
I missed I Was A King because they had put them earlier than i the program. Too bad, ´because they are one of my favorite Norwegian bands, but nothing to do about that. The little I heard of their last song confirmed this. The band that came after I Was A King, which were supposed to play before them, was Danielson. I don’t know much about them, but it wasn’t very interesting, unfortunately.
Highasakite on the other hand, is in my opinion so far the best of the newer bands from Norway. They come from the jazz college in Trondheim, and have a sophisticated sound with a tasteful mix of synth, guitar, horn, drums and samples. You can read my report from the concert in Trondheim during their CD release tour in February.
After Highasakite I saw Rhye. They started out as a collaboration between Danish producer Robin Hannibal and the Canadian musician and singer Michael Milosh. The band consists of violin, cello/trombone, keyboard, bass and drums, and their music is dreamlike with a soft funky beat. Milosh’s voice is beautiful with an androgynous sound. Check out their album from last year, Woman.
Billy Bragg is one of the few openly political artists today. He is also outspoken and supports some really important causes, among them YouTube’s expansion. His concert at Bergen Fest was a good mix of his songs through more than 30 years, some funny one-liners and political appeals. Alone with his guitar he captivated an audience that were a good bit younger than the preceding days, probably because of Saturday’s headliner Lana Del Rey. We need more artists with Billy Bragg’s backbone, and when he also makes excellent songs, a concert with him gives me more than many other of today’s artists.
To see first Billy Bragg, then Graham Parker & The Rumour is pure luxury. Graham Parker started playing in a band when he was 12-13 years old, and has kept it up for the 50 years since then. He has varied between playing solo and with his band The Rumour, and was one of the British artists to make the transition for punk into new wave. He also has an image that is said to have inspired artists like Elvis Costello
Franz Ferdinand was next on the schedule, but the concert was cancelled because Alex Kapranos got an acute allergic reaction just before they were supposed to enter the stage. After some delays, Lee Fields was moved from the tent to the main stage, and an hour late, his concert started.
Lee Fields is one of the many soul artists who have toured extensively since the 60s, often in the shadows of Little Richard and James Brown. He has been called Little JB for the likeness of his voice to James Brown, but he is definitely no copy. He started out early and has so far had a career of around 45 years. In Bergen he had his band with him, The Expressions, and the whole package sounded good, sort of the same kind of sound as Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley.
Norway isn’t well known for our hip hop artists, but we have a few good ones. Lars Vaular is one of them. He is from Bergen, and the second stage venue was filled to capacity even before he entered the stage. Vaular is first of all known for his good and intelligent lyrics, and to my delight, he plays with a solid band, with the ubiquitous drummer Tarjei Strøm, who adds dynamics and snappy beats to all bands he play in. Hip hop isn’t exactly my first love in music but I was impressed by Lars Vaular’s performance yesterday night.
The last act on Saturday, the one everyone was waiting for, was Lana Del Rey. She was also the reason that the average age of the audience was a good number of years younger than the two preceding days. For an artist who has got an almost Britney Spears-like promotion, she has released two very strong albums so far. Both of them reach musically far out of her primary fan base. Strong, almost dreamlike melodies and equally stron lyrics. To me it seems like she has many of the same fans, at least in age, that Miley Cyrus has. If my daughter had been 15, I would have been much happier if she was a fan of Lana Del Rey than of Miley.
When Lana Del Rey enetered the stage she was welcomed by screams and applause. Every time she opened her mouth, the screaming started again. Her presence on stage is admirably low key, the most she does is walking around on stage, doing some moves, etc. Lana Del Rey obviously trust her music and her delivery and doesn’t need dancers and all that extra that many of the other newer pop artists do. It is almost like her songs have become hits by accident. Her new album, Ultraviolence, will be released next week, and I will definitely check it out.
All pictures are © Per Ole Hagen and must not be used without written permission.