The Red Sox playoff game going on across the street couldn’t even stop House of Blues from being packed for the Icelandic bluesy rock crooners Kaleo. The show, which was supposed to be at Paradise, was upgraded due to high demand and the audience was a collection of mixed age families, couples, and friends ready for a musical Monday.
Everyone was abuzz as second opener Bishop Briggs bounced on stage with her sharp, synthy beats and vocals that cut through the transient fog. Her voice is almost effortless, breathy and bluesy, sometimes vulnerable and delicate, other times sassy, strong, and sexy. She never stopped moving as one song flowed into the next, making the stage her own with a commanding, goddess like power that kept the audience’s eyes glued. “Wild Horses” had her dashing from one side of the stage to the other with intermittent, expressive breaths. Briggs is almost a natural born performer, starting at age 7 and forging her way now at age 24. With her fun and youthful energy and perfectly timed drops, it’s no surprise she’s winning over crowds. Especially with closing song, and most notable single “River” topping everything else she had just done by exploding into passionate vocals and a falsetto wail that had the audience singing along and calling for more. New fans were won as people took out their phones to look her up and check back with her later.
After quite some time changing over (almost 40 minutes, and the stage was mostly preset?) the house music stopped and the notes of “Afternoon Delight” started, cluing everyone in to the sensual experience that was about to be encountered. The members of Kaleo took the stage and the gentle whistles of “I Can’t Go On Without You” rose. As a side note, lead singer JJ Julius Son is a spot on whistler, never missing a note. The song continued to build and climb as the audience sang along with the gravely heartbroken goodness. Their songs take you on a journey, and “Save Yourself” evoked a sense of longing as fans looked on transfixed. “Broken Bones” started the gritty and raw blues rock, which is nothing new to the industry, but there’s something different about Kaleo’s execution that sets them apart and feels refreshing.
Newer song “Alter Ego” is edgy and powerful, and “Pour Sugar On Me” is just sugary sweet and sexy. One of their oldest songs, “Automobile” brought out a fellow Icelander and Berklee attendee called “The Rooster” to raise the heat on harmonica. It was a nice addition and a great gesture showing that Kaleo is all about camaraderie and really connecting with their fans. Keeping the flow, but dipping down for a tender moment, “All the Pretty Girls” heard a collective “aww” rise from the audience, as JJ Julius hit all the falsetto spots effortlessly. Turning it back up to 11 and keeping us on our toes, “Hot Blood” into “No Good” was such a one-two punch that kept the audience rocking out to blazing guitar and howling vocals. Back to back bangers that kept everyone dancing as guitarist Rubin Pollock stomped up and down encouraging fans.
Their “one song in another language” “Vor í Vaglaskógi” surprisingly kept everyone attuned despite the age of cell phones taking over concerts. A true testament to how transfixing these guys really are.
“I Walk On Water” and “Back Door” brought the journey back around, with more flawless vocals, natural chords, and pitch perfect whistling. Nearing the close, the single everyone was waiting for, “Way Down We Go” ripped through cheers and culminated into the emotion packed “Ladies Man,” where the breaks in JJ Julius’ voice were highlighted and a Zeppelin-like riff ended on a bang. The encore was second Icelandic single “Rock n’ Roller” which blazed and built and didn’t stop until it grew so much it almost had to.
Overall, there were highs and lows in the set, not just all rock, or all crooning ballads. The balance is what makes them unique, the blend is what shows they can do a multitude of sounds and that they can rise and fall with the setting while maintaining full attention. If you want to feel like you’re involved on a musical journey in 75 minutes, go see Kaleo.