Leprous – Malina & Pitfalls Weekend (Feb 20-21)
Oh, live concerts… We all miss them so much! But thank you technology! You have made it possible in these weird times, to be able to witness a live concert in the comfort of our living rooms (though I terribly miss the “comfort” of the photo pit!).
Leprous, as forward-thinking as they are, have made good use of the streaming technologies since the global pandemic started. They’ve been doing live streams, pre-recorded streams, premiered a new song, and even offered a glimpse of a “reality show” by giving the opportunity to “write a song with Leprous”, live-streaming for hours, for a week, from the awesome “Ocean Sounds” studio in one of the most amazing places on earth (the Norwegian west coast).
The natural course of action for the 5-piece is to continue doing concerts, as socially-distanced gatherings are slowly allowed in Norway, they went back to their beloved Notodden Teater, in the band’s home-town, Notodden. As Einar Solberg commented several times during the first part of the stream, and on previous ones, this theater is an integral part of Leprous, as it is literally the place where they started their career. Doing these special concerts there, allows them to review their own musical history, making these events even more special for bands and fans.
Day 1 – Malina
The Saturday streaming started with the band’s fifth studio album, Malina. A raw and emotional album, it signaled a change in the band’s musical and visual style, distancing themselves from the more metal side of their music, while staying on top of the technicality and progressiveness they’re known for. Though I’ve seen the band so many times already, watching them perform these songs over and over again, it is by no means boring, as they always find a way to capture and envelop you in their massive energy.
‘Bonneville’ starts the set, with blue lights washing down over everything. As I know very well the problems stage lights create in photos or videos, I’m pleasantly surprised that the lights seem to be a tad desaturated, making it possible to actually see the band through the blue haze, and not a bunch of polarized blue shapes. Munin.live have done a remarkable job with the streaming quality, sound and visuals are simply amazing!
Talking about the audience, they played in front of a real audience of roughly 40 people! Einar Solberg joked that if they had that audience before, they’d consider quitting!. The 40 people were actually very enthusiastic and noisy. Several times I could hear them cheering for the band and even singing chants for them.
About the stage presence, it is like coming back to a Leprous live show, they do the same light-show and have the same stage props and stage synchronization. I think this has to be heavily rehearsed because how the bloody heck they don’t collide when they’re doing their “rage-dance” throughout on stage like crazy? I’ve always wondered about this!
The band went through the whole album, like sliding through soft hills, until ‘Coma’ arrived, a song they played very few times before. Jaw-dropping moments galore, I found myself thinking several times: “how?!”, “how is it humanly possible to play those time changes?” But they did, and they delivered! Goosebumps moments for everyone!
As if it was not enough, coming down of that supersonic jet that is ‘Coma’, Einar and Tor Oddmund Suhrke, finally brought out “the surprise”… oh yes, the promised historic video they couldn’t present on their previous show due to technical problems, they had it ready and without anesthesia, they played it for the delight of the audience present there (many were witness to those original moments!) and of us jaw-dropped-laughing-out-loud viewers from afar.
The video showed all kinds of silly stage moments, Einar and Tor Oddmund (childhood friends) had shared on the very same stage on which they were standing. From funny school theater performances, to the origins of Leprous, – YES, corpse paint included! And of course, they had to joke about it, pretending they would come the next day with corpse paint to perform Pitfalls.
Naturally, cellist-extraordinaire Raphael Weinroth-Browne joined the band from the beginning via pre-recorded video, shown on the screen behind the stage. He did all the cello parts from his studio in Canada, and the synchronization with the rest of the band playing live was simply great! Closing the evening with his beautiful solo, I might say it was one of the best moments of the show. Raphael has the immense talent of imbuing everything his music touches with such an indescribable emotion. When Einar comes to sing ‘The Last Milestone’, it even feels like a break from the enchantment created by Raphael’s cello. Nevertheless, the duet is at its best, and even if not really playing live together, the understanding of each other’s music is complete.
After such an emotional piece, it felt a tad weird as the band was leaving the stage rather suddenly, to hear the crowd (of 40) football-chanting very loud “Ooohh Leprous we love youuu”…
Day 2 – Pitfalls
Oh no!… streaming problems. They started right at the beginning, but after some buffering troubles, the streaming continued… only to stop again. NOoooOOoOoooo!…
The band of course didn’t stop playing as they were live in front of an audience. So they continued, and we, online watchers, could only wait until the streaming came back. Sadly only after the second song had started. Yep, those of us who watched it live missed most of the opener ‘Below’.
The streaming was back, intermittently from half of the second song ‘I Lose Hope’ (I almost did and turned it off!) until halfway through the album, during ‘Alleviate’. But at least the Munin.live crew announced on the live chat of their app and website that they had finally fixed the problem, and so they did. Kudos to them! I still regard them as one of the best live streaming services out there!
I wonder if the band knew what was happening beyond the stage, as, right after the regular stream came back, I noticed Einar’s voice a tad different from the night before. But that impression didn’t last long as the performance of the whole band went ahead and beyond, noticing especially Einar’s voice of whom I am thoroughly in awe! The control he has over his powerful voice is astonishing, the rawness and power he injects for moments to then fall immediately after to the subtlest of sounds with his falsettos… Simply stunning!
The band continued with the performance of the full album, and it is like being dragged back to the shows I saw them playing live so many months ago… So distant already… talking about distant: ‘Distant Bells’ was one of the best live performances I’ve seen from Leprous until today (and I’ve seen quite a few!). This brings me back to my question: how can they display such explosive energy and not miss a single note?
For those who didn’t have an opportunity to see the band touring Pitfalls, it might have been interesting to see how the band members (except drummer Baard Kolstad), were taking turns around the different keyboards and a piano placed on stage. Pitfalls expanded their musical approach, so they had to solve the new sounds and soundscapes by engaging bassist Simen D. Børven, Tor O. and guitarist Robin Ognedal into playing the keyboards (and occasional drums), while Einar concentrated on singing or playing another synth at the same time (during the tour this job was also done by Raphael W-B.).
‘Foreigner’ got its live debut, and of course, something had to happen: did Baard break a drumhead? He could be seen struggling while playing through the song. Sadly some streaming problems came back but were quickly resolved. Then the reason for Baard‘s struggles were clear, indeed he did break a drumhead! He promised he would change it quickly, he said surprised: “it didn’t happen in a long time, last time was in Japan I think…”, only for Einar to interrupt him: “Last time it was in 2013! It happens all the time!” haha.
So the break brought “joking-Einar”’ back on stage, and while chatting about the past with Tor O., they announced that they will be doing a “Bilateral – Coal” weekend show as well. After some more silly jokes, Baard could be heard shouting his trademark phrase “YES PLEASE!” announcing he was ready! These guys are a joy to watch out of their stage serious persona. They had some chance to continue joking, and Tor O. and Baard mentioned that nobody was going to see the streaming as only “a few ‘internet fans’ like those albums” (in reference to jokes around the fans on the internet).
All silliness gone, the red lights flared, shedding their ominous introductory presence as background to the bone-chilling cello intro from Raphael W-B. for the impressive and brilliant ‘The Sky is Red’. Watching this reminds me of the energy and goosebumps I felt each time I got to witness this song live among many others having the same sensations and thrill at the same time.
The intense energy of the song was crowned by the imposing figure of Einar standing tall right in the middle of the red stage. For those of us who practice some form of yoga or meditation, I immediately recognize the ‘mountain pose’ with his hands forming the ‘Gyan Mudra’, a hand posture that, as explained by different sources, brings peace, calm, focus and promotes spiritual progress. A very powerful image backed by the Buddha behind him (Pitfalls album artwork), and very much in tune with the general theme of the album.
The promised encore for fans who bought the full weekend package was the 2 bonus songs ‘Golden Prayers’ (a fan-favorite) and ‘Angel’, the Massive-Attack cover the band released as a single and played live on their latest tours. Though it helped slow down the massive energy on stage, they felt flat after such a massive display of awesomeness we witnessed before. Still, it was interesting to properly watch Robin aiding Baard on the drums.
One thing is clear to me after these 2 shows, Leprous is at their best stage form. Despite the halt in concerts worldwide, they have not really stopped playing together and have kept rocking every studio or stage they enter. By now, they have officially announced the next double streaming, featuring “Bilateral & Coal”, happening on April 10th and 11th respectively.
I’ve been waiting to hear “Bilateral” played by the band with their current setup and sound! And hope they will bring in their former band members Øystein Landsverk and Tobias Ørnes Andersen, as they have done before.
The band also announced their 20th-Anniversary tour, “From early demos to Pitfalls – Chronological Show”. Yes!, real live shows. Tentatively from Dec. 3th to 16th in selected places across Europe. I really hope they can pull it through because they truly deserve it! And who wants to hear some “Aeolia” songs? I DO!