Recap: Sondre Lerche at World Cafe Live
Norwegian singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche is attractive enough to fill any room with teenage girls—but he’s got the charisma and the musical chops to keep them there. Blond and elfin, with a boyish flop of hair, Lerche set the hearts of his overwhelmingly female audience swooning at World Café Live on Friday night.
Lerche began learning guitar at age 8 and had signed a record contract by 15, and his experience shows. He is obviously at home on stage: he looks comfortable and happy with a guitar in his hands and a sea of faces staring up at him expectantly. Most importantly, Lerche is at ease in a way that isn’t calculated or disingenuous; the self-deprecation doesn’t seem like an act. (If it is, it’s a perfectly tuned one.) He kicked off the show with an earnest “Hey everybody!” and punctuated the concert with comments about the unoriginality of his song titles (“Domino”), excuses for the lack of fan favorites at the top of the set (“I know that can be a drag”), and an apology for not noticing that his guitar was still ringing when a song was clearly over (“pure laziness”).
Lerche is glad to be there, but he’s not out for adoration. During the show, he alternately beamed into space, squeezed his eyes shut, and grinned at drummer Dave Heilman, seeming to forget the crowd’s existence as he launched into one protracted interlude after another. Though this was an opportunity to showcase how well he can play his instrument, it was during these moments that the audience’s attention started to flag. Lerche’s music is fairly nondescript: it’s not bland, but it isn’t complex enough to hold out over several minutes without the aid of his strong, sincere vocals. This was particularly true of the new tune “Tied Up to the Tide.”
Before “Say It All,” Lerche professed his love for “Making an impossible song possible,” as a solo artist, but admitted that “There were some that I never cracked the code on.” He usually performs alone, but on Friday he was accompanied by a three-member backing band, consisting of Heilman, bassist Dave Hartley (of opening act Nightlands), and Kishi Bishi on violin and synths. Apart from Heilman’s humorous asides—“This is like analog Twitter!” he shouted while Lerche bantered with a fan—and some sporadic dancing from Kishi Bishi (the evening’s other opener), the band didn’t offer much in the way of energy. That’s not to say that there was a lack of rapport between the artist and audience (which spent a good portion of the show contentedly swaying and bobbing). When Lerche played the duet “Modern Nature,” the crowd supplied the girl’s part, chiming in for a sweet, lilting back and forth that was not only charming but also sounded great.
After reappearing for the encore, Lerche smiled and said, “I want to play more, what can I say? I said goodbye, and…I lied.” His fans were glad that he had. —Kiley Bense