It took a couple songs into his Tuesday night show at the Troubadour for me to piece it together, but I think I pinpointed what Icelandic singer-songwriter Asgeir‘s vibe is. He’s a bit Bon Iver meets a bit more of James Taylor, with the vocal talent of Sam Smith. He’s electronic folk rock at its finest.
Asgeir’s melodies are extremely nostalgic and familiar, often wistful. The singer played the majority of his 2017 sophomore record Afterglow, an even moodier album than his debut In The Silence. His stunning falsetto had the crowd mesmerized from the opening moments.
Asgeir played almost exclusively the English tracks from his record, except for “Fennir Yfir,” which sounded like a Selena ballad, but in Icelandic. Asgeir’s deep accent sometimes made some of his words hard to understand, particularly when it was drowned out by multiple synths from his backing band.
The Troubadour felt like a sweat lodge for the sold-out show. I happened to be with my roommate that likes to crank the AC to chilling temperatures at all hours of the day, so he was pretty uncomfortable. One girl was carried out by her friends halfway through her set, likelier due to the heat rather than getting trashed at an Asgeir show.
Asgeir was of few words between song, instead letting his music do all the talking for him. In fact, I’m not sure if the singer opened his eyes once while belting out his signature falsetto.
If you’re unfamiliar, Asgeir’s lyrics are a collaboration with his father, poet Einar Georg Einarsson. Songs from the second record feel a bit more nuanced, evidenced at times by the sound of four keyboards playing at one time. At just 25 years of age, it’s an impressive feat just how he is able to blend folk rock with synths and electronic sounds.
Bearded and in a short-sleeved collared shirt, Asgeir looked like a man of simple things, not a man whose debut record is owned by 1 out of every 10 people in Iceland. His look seems to reflect his small town upbringing — he’s from a small town in Iceland of about 40 people, a place called Laugarbakki.
Asgeir’s set entranced the crowd. During the favorite “Going Home,” I could see the girl in front of me agonizing over a long-winded text she was trying to write to a guy. Elsewhere during the set, I saw a couple exchange looks as though they had been battling it out emotionally and the sounds of Asgeir increased the tension.
After “Going Home”, Asgeir returned to the stage for a two-song encore. The cinematic “Torrent” from the first record was a perfect way to close the night. The opening piano sounds like it could soundtrack every uplifting scene from a film, particularly when the percussion and everything else comes crashing in as he begins to sing.
There wasn’t much singing along in the crowd from where I was standing, but you could see almost everyone absorbed the emotion and feel of Asgeir’s show and took it with them as they filed out of the venue.
Opening the show was Asgeir’s One Little Indian labelmate TUSKS. The multi-instrumentalist Emily Underhill was a perfect appetizer for what was to come later in the evening, blending her captivating melodies with her gorgeous voice seamlessly.
Photos by Stephanie Varela Rheingold