Jonas Alaska, Lille Vega (Nov 2012)

November 22, 2012 – 20:39
**** (4 stars out of 6); November 20 at Lille Vega
On his own or with a band, Jonas Alaska is the man (Photo: NRK P3)
From time to time I must admit that I get bored of the heavy melancholic mood that hangs over most singer/songwriter gigs in the middle of the dark and downright depressing Danish winter.  I approached Tuesday’s concert at Lille Vega expecting an evening of cheesy songs about lost loves and failed ambitions only to be pleasantly surprised by a dexterous assemblage of touching songs in the songwriter tradition fused with jolly spells of rich instrumental rock.
Faroese-Canadian songbird Lena Anderssen was on the warm-up duties for Jonas Alaska as part of her promotional tour for her latest albumLetters from The Faroes. Anderssen played a short, albeit entertaining, set that included tracks such as ‘Stones in My Pocket’ off her award-winning album, Let Your Scars Dance, exiting the stage as she’d come onto it, humbly and with a smile on her face.
The night’s main act, Jonas Alaska, stepped onto the scene armed with his guitar and sporting his recognisable gentlemanly hat and proceeded to break the ice with a short solo performance before his backing band swarmed around him and lifted the venue’s mood.  Alaska’s backing, which included his brother on the drums, were the perfect merry antidote to some of the more melancholic solo tracks of the evening and the contrast between both moods made for pleasant listening.
At one moment, I found myself dancing and swaying to heavily instrumental Bluegrass boogies and at another, stood completely still in a contemplative mood, numbed by solos of songs such as ‘October’, a track about losing a friend at a young age. The evening peaked with Alaska’s performance of the up-tempo ‘In the Backseat’ – a tune off his eponymous 2012 album that sounds even better live.
It’s difficult to say whether Alaska is best as a solo performer or backed by a band, though in both capacities his vocal range, charisma and the ease with which he plays are very impressive. He also sounds strangely similar to Coner Oberst of the American indie band Bright Eyes, which can only be a good thing.  The audience at Vega were certainly spellbound by his musicianship on Tuesday evening, so much so that he re-appeared not once but twice after the curtain call, first with a cover of Neil Young and thereafter with a take on ‘Swine Flue Blues’, a spoof of Bob Dylan’s ‘Tombstone Blues’.

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