Due to unforeseen circumstances, I couldn’t make it to the Agent Fresco + Leprous tour the last year, but I couldn’t give up the opportunity to see them this time around, even if it meant travelling for a couple of hours to the venue. And, without doubt, my decision was vindicated, as I had the time of my life.
Openers 22 come from Norway, same as Leprous, and put on a great show for a first opening band. The members dressed themselves in a varied fashion, with the vocalist wearing a shirt to the guitarist featuring a highly stripped-down version of a T-shirt. The members payed with enthusiasm, with the guitarist letting ‘loose’ at the opportune moment. While I had listened to the band a couple of times before, I am not in a place to remember the names of the songs: I did enjoy the one with rapid syllable phrasing as well as the one with a groovy, djent-y vibe that immediately reminded me of VOLA.
Agent Fresco, on the other hand, I was very aware of, and put on a fabulous show for the better part of an hour. Arnór Dan took center-stage as he danced gracefully to “Howl”. “Wait for Me” is one of the highlights in their discography, and if you hadn’t already come across the nostalgic video that accompanies it, Dan takes a moment to explain its theme about the feeling of missing someone. The performance is opened by an evidently spirited Guðjónsson, whose sprawling, bouncing hair makes for quote the sight when he gets going on the drums. Both the drummer and guitarist switch to the keys on “Implosions” and a bunch of songs later, respectively. The band also played two new tracks, one of which had, again, had a strong VOLA vibe in the grooves while Dan’s falsettos were more ridiculous than ever. The possible exchange of ideas makes sense given that the VOLA bassist joined them for a major part of their tour recently, a fact that I learnt soon after the concert. The other one was softer in the buildup but rose in intensity after a drop. If Dan’s overall vibe of thanking his audience and inviting them to meet him after the show wasn’t enough, he also walked into the crowd and shook hands with a whole bunch of people during the closer, “The Autumn Red”, while ending it with an extended, unearthly scream.
Already overwhelmed with emotion, Leprous were finally ready to rock the stage. The guest cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne has been a mainstay in the touring squad for this line-up and was first on stage. A single light shone on his cello, as he played a few intense melodies, often with contracting moods juxtaposed over each other. He was also in the spotlight for a mid-set pause as well as the break before the encore songs. Overall, the cello added a new dimension to a few of the older tracks. The setlist understandably included a bunch of songs off the new record, ‘Malina’: all the ‘singles’ of “Stuck”, “From the Flame” and “Illuminate”; as well as my personal favourites of “Mirage”, “Bonneville” and “The Weight of Disaster”. “Bonneville”, the opener, started off a bit awkward, with a few misplaced notes and falsettos, but Einar Solberg soon recovered to deliver the jaw-dropping performance he is capable of.
Baard Kolstad’s astonishing drumming performance on “The Weight of Disaster” translated to even more manic touches live, though it must be said, the sound of the drums lacked enough depth on the night. Even “Illuminate”, one of the rare tracks in their discography that I didn’t enjoy on record, shook the floor. All the build-ups leading to the incredible instrumental breakdowns were met with rigorous headbanging and moshing from an audience clearly having the time of their lives. ‘Bilateral’ was represented by “Mb. Indifferentia”, whose haunting strumming and final fraction came out as powerful as possible, though Solberg replaced the scream with a deeper falsetto. ‘Coal’ was represented by the classic “The Cloak” while “Congregation” was by “Moon, “The Price” and “Lower”. The addition of cello rhythms made the latter track even more moving, and the vocal layering on the chorus worked perfectly, with Solberg achieving some of the most difficult flourishes with gusto. The placement of “Lower” and “Mb. Indifferentia” in the middle of the setlist was quite appropriate, calming down the crowd for a short bit. Among the newer tracks, were “Golden Prayers”, a new single, and “Angel”, a Massive Attack cover that sounded quite different with a cellist and a guitarist. The drums were a highlight on it, with Robin Ognedal helping Baard out on a few beats.
The show cements the fact that Leprous are among the elite tier of live acts in the progressive scene. Do not miss the opportunity to catch them live in a town near you.