Review: Peter Bjorn and John, live in Columbus

Peter Bjorn and John with Fujiya and Miyagi and Au Revoir Simone
Monday May 8th at The Wexner Center Performance Space, Columbus OH

Words by Eric Rottmayer
Photo by Kim Rottmayer

We arrived at 7:45pm and headed to the Wex Store for a special signing session with PB&J (John was mysteriously absent, apparently not part of the live band). They seemed in good spirits, signing the necks of young women and carousing about store with open containers (they are from Sweden). Then off to the actual performance where Au Revoir Simone would begin the evening.

I had heard that the band consisted of three girls from Brooklyn and the music was mostly electronic-based beat samples, keyboards and vocals from the trio, in the indie-pop vein, a la Tiger Trap or a mellowed out That Dog. I liked what they were doing sonically for an all-electronic outfit; lots of different textures and frequencies with nothing too screechy or squawky. Mostly pleasant vocal harmonies and also pleasing to view. One girl was kinda rocking out on her keyboard which was fun. It was a short set, probably 6 or 7 songs, no more than a 1/2 hour.

Next up was Fujiya and Miyagi, who I have on my iPod but only listened to a few songs and already knew they would not be my thing. Sexually the opposite of Au Revoir Simone, the 3 dudes from England sort of came off like an unfortunate mash-up of Beta Band, EMF, Love & Rockets and Disco Duck. With their rubber-groove rip-off cuts that went nowhere slow and mumbled, muffled, never-ending, wannabe hooks, they proceeded to bore me and half of the audience into submission. Lyrics like “Why do you keep pussyfooting around?” made me wonder if they were trying to be ironic on purpose. It seemed like mostly girls who wanted to slow-jam-dance were into the set, which, in retrospect, is probably why they sound like they do.

After what seemed like an eternity and 3 bowling game sets on my cell phone later, it was finally time for PB&J. They played mostly re-worked versions of songs from their current US release, Writer’s Block, but also a few from the previous album and a couple new songs also. Apparently a different guy named John was playing drums instead and was maybe even better than the other John or at least he was a bit more energetic.

A few songs into the set I got the feeling that some vital things were missing from the songs; they had the usual bass, guitar & drums & the 2 guys singing, but it seemed to be missing all the other interesting elements of the recorded versions. And to me, this lent to the set becoming stagnant and stale.

Also missing was the beautiful vocal accompaniment of Victoria Bergsman (previously of The Concretes) on the college radio hit, “Young Folks”, but with some help on bongos and backing vocals from Doug of Dirty On Purpose, the audience capitulated to the missing charm. Still, it just isn’t the same without the male/female dynamic achieved on the single which is why I’m looking forward to Victoria Bergsman’s new project, Taken By Trees, due out on Rough Trade (UK) in June, which includes accompaniment by both Peter and Bjorn.

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