Singer/Songwriter Sondre Lerche took the stage at the 9:30 Club Tuesday night and hundreds of adoring fans were there to greet him. Not unsurprisingly, the ratio of women to men was about infinity to 1. Lerche certainly has all the right qualities to be the perfect indie-chick boyfriend. He’s handsome, funny, and of course he can play mean guitar. As such, I would argue that if your only problem as an artist is that your audience is stacked more in the direction of the finer sex, then I would say you’re not only doing pretty well, but you are in fact living the dream. But the ladies (and men) didn’t turn out Tuesday night for any of that (OK, maybe a little). We all turned up because Lerche is one of the most respected songwriters of the past few years, with seven albums under his belt . Given that his latest, Sondre Lerche, focuses all of the paths that he’s traveled previously into one superlerche of a record, this was material that everyone was excited to see. And Lerche must’ve known this because he brought his big guns with him.
Pulling Dave Heilman (drums) and K Ishibashi (keyboards, violin), who have worked with the likes of Regina Spektor and Of Montreal, as well as Dave Hartley (bass),whose Philly-based band Nightlands is one of the openers on this tour, Lerche has assembled a group of musicians that seems to be at home knocking out both complicated jazz compositions and poppy hits that should be all over the radio. It’s a good thing too, because Lerche combines the two effortlessly, and to my ears at least, that’s not something that quite comes across on record.
I’m a stickler for production, and at least on record, Lerche sounds exactly like the product that he is marketed to be. Smart, sometimes complex “indie-orchestral-chamber pop” (take your pick) with an eye toward perfection. His records certainly could sound warmer if not a good bit looser, but that’s just curmudgeonly old me talking, so that’s neither here nor there. And besides, we’re talking about Lerche live, and that’s a whole different animal.
At the beginning of the set, it was unclear as to whether he actually knew what he was doing on the guitar, or if he was just making a good bit of very appropriate noise. Lerche’s fingers are all over the place when he plays and so is the sound. By the end of the set, though, it was abundantly clear that Lerche is sort of a secret monster guitarist who wraps up his ridiculous licks inside lush arrangements pulled off by the rest of the band. What sounds deceptively simple ends up being some pretty complicated stuff, and Lerche sells it all to the audience expertly with a healthy bit of humor and charm for good measure.
As mentioned before, the audience Tuesday night was mostly female, and he definitely played to that. A good chunk of the new album was performed, along with most of the “hits”(including a stellar version of “Phantom Punch”). Between each song Lerche walked right up to the line of flirting with the collective “she-ness” of the audience before doing an about-face and plunging back into the richness of his catalog. It was a fine example of showmanship that was reciprocated in the closing number. Flirting right back in what was a downright magical moment, all of the ladies saw fit to sing backup on the song “Modern Nature”. Maybe it happens at every show, or maybe this was the first time…I don’t know. What I do know is that as a chorus of schoolgirl voices rose to meet his in a coy game of call and response it drove home the fact that Sondre Lerche is a master of the game that he’s playing. Next time he’s in your town, make it a point to be there. Just keep a tight grip on your lady, OK?
I tweeted out a couple things during the show addressing the basic facts of the show and I’m going to regurgitate them here as a teachable moment.
First up: Dudes who brought your ladies to the show, I feel for you. All of the metaphorical panties were thrown directly at the Norwegian located center stage. It’s OK. It was unavoidable and now it’s over. She’ll stop thinking about him in a week or so. Maybe.
Second, and this is about as un-PC as you can get but oh well: All you single dudes in DC who DIDN’T come to the show? YOU FAIL. Mostly because you missed some damn fine music, but with a ratio of infinity to one, and a guy on stage literally setting the perfect mood for you, how could you have gone wrong? Buy not buying a f@!#ing ticket, that’s how. But that’s all the past now. Learn from your mistakes, OK?