Peter Bjorn and John
featuring Georgi Kay
November 29, 2018 at Brighton Music Hall
On a frozen, windy night in Allston, the warmth of Brighton Music Hall was a relief from the frigid weather. As Peter Bjorn and John rose to mainstream prominence in 2006, the late-millennial audience at the music hall started enjoying the band’s brand of indie rock. While the generational hit ‘Young Folks’ was dominating the airwaves, many attendees at the music hall were finishing up college or enjoying their first jobs. The past 12 years have been less than stellar for them, with a great recession and lack of recovery eliminating much of the perceived opportunity that existed for the college-educated in 2006. As the generation spent the last few years figuring out how to live in an often depressing and always exploitative world, the standard indie rock fare, like Peter Bjorn and John, provided, if nothing else, a welcome respite to a harsh reality. The night at Brighton Music Hall was a continuation of this escape as the band’s rollicking guitar riffs and emphatic performance provided an escape for an audience that needed it.
You might not expect a Peter Bjorn and John set to open with an ethereal vocal and synth-driven act, but Georgi Kay’s impressive performance helped the crowd forget they were even at a Peter Bjorn and John concert. Her awkward ad-libbing between songs humanized the commanding electronic riffs she delivered via laptop. At one time, Kay even declared, “I promise I can play real instruments!” to the laughter of the crowd. Later, she explained and showed the audience the involved looping process she was using to make those beats. Ultimately, the memorable ad-libbing and high-quality deep house-inspired electronic refrains provided a surprising opening act.
After the superb opener, Peter Bjorn and John emerged to great fanfare. Peter, the energetic frontman; Bjorn, the understated bass player; and John, the subdued drummer, were a formidable group and had great chemistry on stage. They catered to the late-20’s audience by starting with ‘Call It Off’ from Writers Block and ‘Falling Out.’ The rest of the performance continued without a hitch as the trio generated the quintessential mid-2000s indie rock we’ve come to expect from the band.
Tracks like ‘Gut Feeling’ and ‘Wrapped Around the Axle’ from their new album Darker Days were performed as well and fit into their set seamlessly. Peter’s naturally performative style elevated the set and charmed the crowd. Between leaping into the spectators, lying on the ground, and more jumps than I could keep track of, he worked the stage like the 19-year veteran he is. An encore of old standbys like ‘Young Folks’ and ‘Second Chance’ were a perfect end to the incredible set, setting off rapturous applause from the audience.
Peter Bjorn and John’s unique indie rock wasn’t only a respite from the low temperatures; it also served to distract a disaffected class of upward seeking professionals that have been wronged by society at nearly every turn. Hearing these old favorites makes you remember why you enjoy this genre of music in the first place. The instantly recognizable whistling motif of ‘Young Folks’ can help anyone forget they’re working longer hours for less pay and monetizing their hobbies to survive in 2018. As the lights rose around the hall and reality settled back in for the attendees, they could take solace in the fact that the generational hit they grew up with will always be a reminder of good times – and that maybe better times are still to come.
Photos by Chris Bach