NEW YORK — At their show Sunday night at Bowery Ballroom, Swedish band Soundtrack of Our Lives didn't have to announce that they were the crowd's new favorite band, a la the Hives. They let their music and performance do all the talking.
Like many of their country mates, Soundtrack are tight and energetic onstage, but they don't play storming garage rock. They can be as loud and rambunctious as their peers, matching duel guitar riffs with charged vocal melodies and turbulent drum fills, but they're just as capable of being mellow and introspective, pairing spare organ and piano lines with Ebbot Lundberg's radiant vocals.
At moments, they touch upon the ragged majesty of early Rolling Stones, the Who and Love, and there are also doses of the Beatles and Big Star in their blood, though Soundtrack never sound blatantly derivative. On their albums, Soundtrack of Our Lives are musically diverse, confident and colorful (see "Soundtrack Of Our Lives' Story Reads Like Behind The Music"). In concert, they're even more so.
Lundberg, a mystical, hefty figure with a beard and hippie-length hair, wore a flowing black robe; guitarist Mattias Barjed had a jacket decorated with the Union Jack; and second guitarist Ian Person and bassist Ake Karl Kalle Gustafsson were both clad in blue denim. Balding drummer Fredrik Sandsten was dressed in a patterned collared shirt that made him look like a schoolteacher with little fashion sense. Cumulatively, they may have looked like the kind of throwbacks that played Dungeons & Dragons through high school. But they rocked with flair and boundless energy.
Lundberg sang with power and conviction and frequently gestured with his hands, while the guitarists spun, leapt, windmilled, dropped to their knees and snapped the necks of their instruments back and forth in a manner that was impressively uniform, but not choreographed. And Sandsten twirled his drumsticks between his fingers during pauses and swirled them in flashy spirals between beats.
Soundtrack of Our Lives mostly played material from their first U.S. release, Behind the Music, and they also tossed in a few songs from their two previous European albums. Though the crowd wasn't familiar with them, the fans reacted just as favorably, even if they didn't sing along.
The band opened the show with the billowing, enigmatic "Broken Imaginary Time," an organ-driven song that included the line, "You're such a lightweight after all, you're such a nobody at all." Just when the crowd was sufficiently tranced out, the group launched into "Infra Riot," the first song from Behind the Music. As the mystical guitar intro yielded to the galvanic main riff, Soundtrack kicked into full action, bouncing and bounding around the small club stage as if they were Guns N' Roses at Madison Square Garden.
Their set was tight and professional, though never overly rehearsed. Lundberg may be the dynamic frontman, and it was a trip to see the bulky guy standing on the bass drum hitting a cymbal with his mic, but his bandmates were almost as charismatic, playing solos on their knees, their backs or leaning against one another, fingers flying across their fretboards.
After a spirited rendering of "Still Aging," all the members left the stage except Lundberg and touring keyboardist Olle Hagberg, who performed the aching and somber "Tonight" before being rejoined by the rest of Soundtrack for "Instant Repeater," from their first album, 1996's Welcome to the Infant Freebase. For the Oasis-like "Nevermore," Barjed wielded a double-neck guitar and Lundberg unscrewed the microphone and sang into the separated sections.
The enthralled audience sang along with the single "Sister Surround" as Barjed and Person banged their heads like members of Metallica. Then for "21st Century Rip Off" Lundberg jumped into the crowd and roamed the club floor, dancing with audience members before coaxing everyone on the floor to sit down while he improvised and the band vamped.
For a full-length feature about the Swedish rock scene, check out "Swede Devotion: Life After The Hives."
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.