Almost a year since our last ‘in person’ / ‘in the room’ live review, we’ve managed to keep the kettle boiling with occasional reports from a handful of the online streams to get a live music fix.
The pull of live performance remains and suddenly the opportunity arose to catch Leprous, a band whose progression we’ve followed for a while.
Streamed 20th/21st February 2021
Notodden Theatre, Norway and http://www.munin.live
A ‘weekend’ where Leprous would perform two sets. Each night a full run-though of one of their last two albums. The choice of Malina and Pitfalls makes sense albeit a bold one given that their fanbase might not necessarily rank the pair as the best of their work.
For me, I enjoy the direction their Prog Metal roots have expanded into. Pitfalls in particular, as well as exploring a wider sonic pallet, delved into and took inspiration (if that’s the right word) from singer Einar Solberg’s personal demons.
Having said that there’s much excitement in the build-up to Malina. In the same way as there’s the pre-gig chatter, people are checking in on the comments box from North and South America and all across Europe. A handful of local (lucky) fans appears to be in the theatre too. It’s not quite as if you were there; that feeling can’t be replicated as the lights dim and the roar goes up. However, a chance to catch Einar Solberg doing a solo Below at the piano acts as a nice aperitif on the Munin site.
Saturday night is almost a game of two halves which Einar Solberg admits in presenting the album in running order. The ‘hits’ come first. The shorter songs provide a build-up to the more intense material. However, it appears that everything is building up to Mirage mid-set. While the album itself may have its detractors, Mirage is a thick slice of prime Leprous.
Listen to Mirage (and play it again as you can with these online recordings) and you’d have no choice but to disagree. It’s suddenly emerging as my new favourite Leprous song. Thoughts while watching for the umpteenth occasion…How you can have a band with two guitarists and come up with an explosive song where neither feels the need to break into a solo. And more importantly, with the amount of girating and shape throwing, how do their shirts stay tucked in? Good belts? Tight waistbands? Eventually, drummer Baard Kolstad has his shirt off but his bandmates maintain their sartorial elegance amidst the furious soundtrack.
We get the treat of some amazing archive footage from pre-Leprous days with Einar and Tor Oddmund all glammed up in their pre-Prog Metal days before The Last Milestone brings things right down and offers a subdued close to proceedings. Some chilling cello hints at a haunting atmosphere and you can hear hints of World’s Within. There’s just a brief return for Einar to sing along to some prerecorded cello and we’re happy for now. Tomorrow is another day.
It should be interesting to see where Leprous go after Pitfalls (our album review and their Manchester gig). A very strong album from the shorter pieces to the genuine highpoint and set closer The Sky Is Red. Lit in deep reds, naturally, the live version is a disturbing and ominous monster. It flattens all that’s come before and that’s no mean feat.
The need for the band to adapt to the new musicals textures sees them taking up different positions on different keyboard setups to allow Einar Solberg to focus on the vocal delivery which is as sharp as ever. They go all Radiohead on Observe The Train and there are live debuts for By My Throne and Foreigner, although I can’t fathom why the latter never made the cut. It’s a live sizzler although the stunning trio of Alleviate / At The Bottom / Distant Bells marry the dynamics perfectly. Like being lulled and caressed before a smack across the head with a hefty gardening tool. And not just musically, but Einar Solberg appears almost hysterical as he vents his rage. At The Bottom today does what Mirage did last night.
Golden Prayer and Massive Attack’s Angel make up the encore – as they do as bonus tracks on the Pitfalls release – which is a nice touch. Especially when there are several showcase numbers that would make a welcome nod to the back catalogue.
Just in case we need confirmation that Leprous are an outstanding unit, this ‘weekend’ outing (we all sat at home and the band in their hometown) provides the evidence. There’s mention that we could be doing something similar again soon with the Coal and Bilateral albums – which is nice. Let’s not tempt fate by hoping for some return for us all to the same room but the time will come.
Thanks to Inside Out Music/For The Lost PR for providing some live shots from the event…