Deli Magazine



Concert Review: "Reykjavic Calling" Presented by 88.9 WERS @ Paradise, Saturday, March 3, 2012
by Daniel McMahon

What do you get when you mix four incredibly talented Boston-based artists, four incredibly talented Icelandic artists and one awesome local college radio station? If you were in attendance at The Paradise Saturday, March 3, you would know the answer to that question. For those of you who were unable to make it and are now relaying on my exquisite story-telling skills, I will now relay back to you all of events of that evening (or the most important ones anyway).

The event, dubbed Reykjavík Calling was organized by Emerson College’s WERS 88.9FM, and showcased up-and-coming talent from the local and Icelandic music scenes. The show opened with Boston musician Amory Sivertson, her producer/fellow musician Mike Moschetto and Icelandic native Lay Low. Amory and Lay Low get my vote for the best vocal performances of the evening. Their voices seemed to complement one another in a way that would make you think they had been playing music together for years. Amory’s bright, theatrical vocals blended beautifully with Lay Low’s folk-infused guitar playing and Joanna-Newsom-esque vocal qualities. According to Sivertson, the Icelandic performers arrived in Boston only three days before the show, and while there were plenty of glances shared between Sivertson and Lay Low during the performance as if to say “I think we missed a chorus,” those looks only added to the authenticity and genuinely good-natured atmosphere of the evening.

Following Sivertson and Lay Low was Iceland’s own Soley Stefansdottir who shared the stage with David Munro, Casey Sullivan and Steve Scott (members of Air Traffic Controller). Stefansdottir’s eerie piano and vocal loops provided a very interesting contrast to the blue-grass/folk sounds of Munro, Sullivan and Scott. Stefansdottir’s use of live-looping effects techniques were quite impressive, especially during her song “I Drown,” where she layered nearly half a dozen vocal sounds over one another to create a brilliant backbeat for her haunting piano melodies.

Third in the line-up was the duo of Will Dailey from Boston and Petur Ben of Iceland. Dailey and Ben were perhaps the tightest performers of the night. Like Sivertson and Lay Low earlier in the evening, Dailey and Ben played their songs and interacted on stage like two musicians who have worked together for decades, rather than a mere three days. Dailey’s brand of bluesy, tremolo guitar rock was a great match for Ben’s relaxed, smooth playing style.

The highlight of their set came before Ben played one of his songs. He quieted the crowd and explained that the song he was about to play is usually very well received back in Iceland. It is so well-liked, he said, that the crowd becomes so quiet that he is able to play completely unplugged in front of a large crowd and they are still able to hear him play. He then asked if the crowd was willing to have him play acoustically, and when the crowd cheered, he unplugged his guitar and started to play. I must admit, I was in awe that several hundred people (mostly Bostonians) could be capable of being so quiet during a rock show. The only noise that came from the crowd was during the choruses, when Ben gestured to the crowd to sing along with him, and they shouted out every word in unison with both Ben and Dailey.

Rounding out the evening’s performances were Eli “Paperboy” Reed of Boston and Mugison, winner of five “gongs” at this year’s Icelandic Music Awards, including one for Album of the Year. Mugison and Reed did not collaborate on stage as did the other three sets of performers, but each took definitive control of the audience during their respective sets. Mugison’s bluesy, Black Keys-style rock n’ roll was fantastic. He was the stand-out performer of the evening, with plenty of on-stage antics to back up his impressive guitar skills. At one point during his set, several members of the audience were yelling to Mugison to play a song in Icelandic. He replied that while he was unable to play the specific song at that moment, after the show he would put on an encore performance in the women’s bathroom. Sure enough, at the end of the show, Mugison made good on his promise, playing an Icelandic folk song to a packed crowd of both sexes in the women’s bathroom.

Reed’s performance was certainly captivating as well. He played solo, but his Little Richard/Isley Brothers vocals and Buddy Holly looks commanded the type of attention that even a five piece band would struggle to achieve. Reed is one of the very few artists that has really mastered a great rock n’ roll scream. His vocals could easily be mistaken for something off of a 1950s greatest hits record.

The most powerful performance of the night came during the finale. Reed stood alone on-stage and began Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me.” Soon after the start of the song, Mugison came back out and joined Reed in the song. Towards the end of the song, Sivertson returned to the stage, tambourine in-hand, and finished off the performance with Mugison and Reed. Then, all of the other performers joined Reed, Mugison and Sivertson in singing The Band’s “I Shall Be Released.” I felt like I was witnessing a modern-day version of The Last Waltz as I watched all of the performers smiling and belting out the words to each chorus.

Overall, I was exceedingly pleased with the concert. All of the artists were so immensely talented that it was a pleasure to watch them all as they took part in a truly unique collaborative effort. If this show is to serve as an indicator of the progression of the Boston music scene, I am eager to see what kinds of innovative performances are in store for the future.



Reykjavik Calling

Reykjavik Calling

Photo Credit: Erin Abraham