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Review: Sondre Lerche delivers deft pop songcraft, winning humor at Capitol Theatre in Clearwater




Spectacle can be fun, but there’s something rare and special about an intimate show, when the performer and audience connect in ways it can’t inside an arena or a shed.

Such was the case Wednesday night when Swedish pop maestro Sondre Lerche made his Tampa Bay debut at Clearwater’s Capitol Theatre.

Certainly, Lerche had plenty of ammo in his arsenal – a deceptively versatile voice (his falsetto was effortless), mastery of guitar chords rarely heard outside a jazz club and several albums worth of winning tunes.

Playing solo and apparently winging it – he made several references to the setlist he was changing on the spot – Lerche was self-effacingly funny and feeding off the audience’s energy.

He took advantage of the Capitol’s intimate setting and acoustics to play Coliseum Town sitting on the edge of the stage, sans microphone and amplification. He also played a spare and gorgeous version of obvious influence Cole Porter’s In the Still of the Night.

“This could totally backfire” he said before playing Tied Up to the Tide, a song he said he seldom performs solo. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t.

Lerche’s between-song patter was almost as entertaining as his songs, as he joked about stalking Steve Carell (Lerche’s music soundtracked Carell’s film Dan in Real Life), having a video censored in the U.S. for a brief flash of nudity (“Sensitive nipples,” he joked) and a former tour manager mishearing the title Stupid Memories as Stupid Mammeries.

The songs, though, were close to magic, revealing Lerche as a songwriter who’s absorbed the best of the greats, from Porter to Paul McCartney to Elvis Costello.

The smallish but enthusiastic crowd’s role deserves recognition as well. The give and take between performer and audience was palpable culminating when the some of Lerche’s most knowledgeable fans sang Modern Nature nearly in its entirety. The good vibes began with opening act Peter Wolf Crier.

The group’s slow-core noise-pop might have suggested a dour set, but it was anything but, with front man Peter Pisano gently engaging the crowd, which got the trio a warm response and a request for a cover song. Pisano responded by whispering a title in his band mates’ ears before launching into INXS’ Never Tear Us Apart.

-- Curtis Ross, tbt*. Photo (not from Wednesday's show): Getty Images.

[Last modified: Thursday, November 17, 2011 3:50pm]


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