Published May 12, 2011New Zealand's Bachelorette had a simple set-up. The mild-mannered Annabel Alpers stood tentatively behind a pair of laptops and moved between a tambourine, MIDI controller, guitar and pair of mics. She won the crowd over on cuteness points, between her humble appearance and incoherent between-song mumblings.
Yet, aside from singing and playing the odd riff, it appeared Alpers was mostly harmonizing with pre-recorded vocals and triggering pre-recorded loops, rather than taking bigger risks in creating new samples on the fly. Taking those risks is big part of what has made tUnE-yArDs so successful, and it was sorely needed here, with Bachelorette's performance lacking the commitment to push forward. Alpers has the potential to be more, and she needs to realize it.
Thankfully, Peter Bjorn and John gave the audience more than their money's worth. All three members of the Swedish power pop group were natural performers, deeply feeling their odd pogoes, mouthing lyrics when away from the mic, playing to the front row, flipping drumsticks, and working the crowd into several clapping frenzies, many of them spontaneous. Through two encores and well over an hour of upbeat playing, the band didn't miss a note, staying tight rhythmically and nailing their harmonies with an air of ease, though their sweatiness betrayed their effort.
While their albums have tended to sound a little over-polished, their live show opened up the dimensions and influences of their sound. Bits of '50s rock'n'roll, '60s bubblegum, '70s pop punk and '80s new wave shined like diamonds, as lead singer and guitarist Peter Morén flipped his head and hit certain notes like a young Paul McCartney. With a triple thumbs-up backdrop -- which also adorns the cover of their 2011 album Gimme Some -- the band oozed positivity even when Morén sang about struggle and heartbreak. It was also a nice touch when Morén bounded onstage for the first encore, then jogged in place while eating an apple.
Peter Bjorn and John played with a controlled abandon, in the moment yet lucid, without a hint of pretension. It's no wonder they have sold out almost every show on their North American tour so far. These guys should be playing stadiums.