The third time was the charm for some fans at EXPRESS LIVE! Thursday night.
Kaleo, the Icelandic rock band known for its soulful sound, had planned to be in Columbus much sooner. The group was scheduled to play Newport Music Hall in October and again in December for Columbus’s “Jingle Jam,” but to fans’ dismay, both performances were cancelled.
Standing in a thunderstorm was a small price to pay for fans Thursday night. The sold out crowd lined up along Neil Avenue hours before and endured the rain while filing in to finally welcome Kaleo to Columbus.
Up first, however, was the Columbus-bred psychedelic rock group The Worn Flints.
The band’s energy was infectious at times, but at others it felt flamboyant to a fault. The lead guitarist and vocalist, Kenny Stiegele, flailed on stage throughout the entire night, plastering a fuzzy grin on his face in the set’s entirety.
Towards the end, the group felt like a hurdle to be jumped to finally reach what fans have been waiting over four months to see, and simply felt like an odd choice to open for the polished and completely non-theatric act that is Kaleo. Luckily, the Icelanders took little time between their opening act to get on stage and give the people what they had been waiting for.
Kaleo opened with a whistle, cuing the crowd to erupt in anticipation of their powerful ballad “I Can’t Go On Without You,” the final track on their newest record, “A/B.”
The evolution through both of Kaleo’s studio albums feels like a journey, and that translates to the band’s live show. One moment lead singer JJ Julius Son is crooning out the band’s sentimental fan favorite “All The Pretty Girls” where he remains in his buttery falsetto for almost the entire song, only to transition to the raspy and electric “Hot Blood,” allowing the instrumentation to shine through instead.
From the first note, Son had the crowd in a trance. He is a melodic novel, saying little to the crowd with the understanding that it was unnecessary. It felt like there was an understanding between Son and the crowd that he was planning on giving everything he had to give for Thursday night’s performance.
Kaleo consistently teeters the lines of its genre, sometimes being a full-blown rock band with melting guitar solos, but without batting an eye, it becomes a folk group starting in on “Automobile,” a simple song about Son wanting a new car to start seeing more of the world. The band consistently found ways to surprise the audience, never letting them get too comfortable and making the set unpredictable.
Kaleo held its recent radio hit, “Way Down We Go,” until the end of its set, but the crowd didn’t spend any time anticipating their first song to hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts, they were simply enthralled in anything that came their way.
Without any theatrics or gimmicks, Kaleo found a way to transport you out of where you’re standing and into a world dictated by Son’s voice. The welcome to Columbus was delayed, but worth every second of the wait.