by Jerry Peerson -
SGN Contributing Writer
COLUMBIA CITY THEATER
At age 34, Norwegian musician Sondre Lerche is already a veteran of the music world. For over 15 years, he has been heralded as one of his generation's most clever and talented song crafters. Last week, Lerche brought his Pleasure tour to Seattle's 100-year-old Columbia City Theater, despite two band members' visas being declined - something we may see more of over the next four years. But as Lerche mentioned on Facebook before the tour: 'Pleasure can't be stopped.' Throughout Saturday's show he enamored his Seattle fans for two hours with his catchy melodies, comedic stage-banter, a dance party, and some sweaty skin.
Sondre's three backing musicians were the first to appear onstage. Quickly setting the mood, they vamped on the pulsating, synth-heavy intro to 'Soft Feelings' from Lerche's 2017 album, Pleasure. Making his grand entrance from stage left, uproarious applause greeted the singer, who quickly crooned, gyrated and strutted around the stage with boundless energy. Dressed in black with a white tank top and white Asics, the handsome, shaggy haired, blue-eyed performer pumped up the packed crowd between songs with quips to maintain their energy: 'We wanna see you dance!'
There were smiles for miles between Lerche and his drummer, Dave Heilman, for the first half of the third number 'Phantom Punch.' The two were clearly enjoying themselves while playing the funky, four-on-the-floor, disco-tinged track, but a couple minutes into the song, Lerche appeared to be struggling with one of his guitar effects pedals. Visibly, Lerche was having technical difficulties, but not a beat was dropped and the song ended as strongly as it started.
The audience was entertained by about five minutes of the singer's quirky, off-the-wall stage banter as he attempted to fix the pedal issue. Heilman held the singer's microphone so as to give the crowd some unscripted comedic entertainment while they tried to fix the equipment. After citing Beyoncé's grandmother on making lemonade out of lemons, Sondre asked the audience, 'What do we do now?' One fan shouted, 'Take off your shirt!' as another jokingly stated, 'Stop the show?' Lerche quickly pounced on the latter and delivered a deadpan, 'The show's cancelled,' which was met with both laughter and exuberant opposition. Without the pedal issue fully resolved, Lerche heralded an improvised set, saying, 'Welcome to soundcheck!'
The seasoned professional persevered and adapted his songs on the fly to still give the crowd a roiling good time, with occasionally a genuine new intimacy that came from an unplanned orchestration on a few songs. On 'No One's Gonna Come' from 2001's Faces Down record, Lerche sat on the edge of the stage guitarless, holding the microphone and singing directly to the crowd. At one moment he invited a young female fan to rest her hands on his knee while he serenaded her love-struck eyes as if the theater had disappeared around them. After the number, the singer revealed, 'That's the first time in the history of that song that I sang it without playing guitar,' and then joked, 'I'm going to fire the guitar player [himself], he's done!'
When Lerche stepped away from the microphone to offer up a jazzy, stripped down, solo version of 'My Hands Are Shaking,' the audience was already singing along before the completion of the first line. And during Sondre's more raucous rock selections 'Two Way Monologue' and 'Bad Law,' he naturally emulated a youthful Michael J. Fox playing guitar in scenes from Back to the Future when Lerche slid on his knees, then fell with his back flat on the floor still strumming his guitar.
The final selection of the main set was slightly unconventional, but like much of the night a welcome surprise. As his band broke into a techno-infused, instrumental dance jam, Lerche stripped to his tank top and made his way to the GA floor for ten minutes of dancing with his fans. After a short backstage break, the singer reappeared shirtless and eating a banana. While tossing the peel to the side of the stage he stated, 'I've never been half nude on stage, so there's a lot of firsts here tonight,' then broke into a one-song encore, an a cappella version of 'Human Hands.'
Technical difficulties aside, Lerche's high energy, prodigious talent and amiable approach enraptured the crowd throughout the night. 'I think I'm going to remember this show forever,' he said, adding another Beyoncé reference with, 'We just juggled some lemons. We're boiling up here in lemonade!' He even hilariously trolled recently defamed Fox News host Bill O'Reilly when he faux-angrily yelled out 'We're going live!' before starting one song.
Not only was Sondre Lerche's Pleasure tour not stopped by visa issues or technical difficulties, it came to full fruition and exceeded expectations. Last Saturday, his music flourished and evolved with energy, with help from sexy dance moves onstage and off, and lots of laughs in Columbia City.
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