Live Review

The Sounds, The Vic, Chicago

This Swedish Synth-Pop quintet will honestly shock you with the amount of onstage intensity they inject.

Say what you will about The Sounds’ questionably unprogressive studio repertoire, but truly be wary in assuming that their on-record disappointments necessarily translate into lackluster live shows. This Swedish Synth-Pop quintet will honestly shock you with the amount of onstage intensity they inject into their otherwise straightforward Nu-Wave tracks. The Sounds might only do New-Wave, but in so many respects they do New-Wave oh so right. It is unabashed, indulgent, sexy, kitsch party music that calls for drinks and dancing.

Intentionally stutter-starting their Saturday night opening at The Vic with a calm-before-the-storm crowd priming, the guys of the band gently egg on the growing fury of yearning Maja yelps with an all-male rendition of ‘Crossing the Rubicon’. As anticipation grows to an unbridled fervor and the song closes and the relentlessly erotic, yet somehow still cutesy, Sounds’ frontwoman, Maja Ivaarson, enters and firmly gripped the reins with ‘Queen of Apologies’. It is a truly effective two-part opener that acts as a solid stage device to allow the music men of The Sounds to be singularly spotlighted for at least a moment before being waysided by Maja’s inevitable entrance and subsequent takeover. Not to say they are entirely ignorable, but a Sounds’ show it is a notably Maja-driven event where crotch thrusts, hair tugs, seductively smoked cigarettes, face-to-face vocal duets, leg grinding, stage dives, and skin-tight leather rule supreme. And seriously, who wouldn’t want to get on board with that?

From here the band roll through a number of upbeat ‘Crossing the Rubicon’ and ‘Dying to Say This to You’ tracks until pointedly slowing the raucous evening down with tracks ‘Home Is Where the Heart Is’ and ‘Night After Night’. This is a calmingly sentimental moment for diehard fans who want to get their lighters out and sway a little, but the two song slow dance is thankfully brief. Not to say these two songs are necessarily unpleasant, it is more so that they just aren’t conducive to keeping the upbeat momentum of the night alive. However, it seems that The Sounds, being seasoned tour junkies, are all well aware of this fact and quickly turn the volume back up with ‘4 Songs & A Fight’, where Maja shouts the crowd to life again whilst using a grey-haired bouncer as a heel prop, all the while running her fingers through his hair.

The show proceeds to peek further from here with a quick round of onstage drinks and a cameo stage dive from Foxy Shazam lead singer, Eric Sean Nally, as well as a diplomatic Shout-O-Meter style song selection for a pre-encore decision between fan-favorites ‘Ego’ and ‘Living in America’. ‘Ego’ wins out and the fans show their appreciation. Powering through the encore The Sounds tap into a new level of theatrical intensity with piggy-backed guitar solos, Maja stage diving, and more sexual overtones than a backseat car ride with Burt Reynolds. The show’s impressive set closes with an open invite to an after party DJ set and a solid rendition of ‘Hope You’re Happy Now’.

All and all, it was an unexpectedly impressive show that had loads of charisma despite a seemingly monotonous New-Wave theme. It was like the idea of living inside an American Apparel advertisement: It was hot, it was sexy, it was straight out the 1980s, and unquestionably fun.

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