Garage, Oslo on 19 May 2006
Reviewed by Andreas on 22nd May 2006
The Okkervil river is, apparently, to be found in Russia. Thankfully perhaps, that is the extent of Russia's influence on this night when a band from the US play in Norway (the geography makes the mind boggle, really). It's yet another wet Friday in the capital and, unexpectedly, the venue is rammed full. I am left standing behind some guy with a smelly coat. I spill half a pint of beer on my feet. The coat still smells. I've stood up and down for half an hour, puddle of beer making tiny oceans between my shoes, the stench of the most horrible coat ever mixes with the stale air to create some kind of monster of Co2 cement.
This doesn't really matter 5 minutes later.
"And I searched and stared, but only the river stared back" sang Will Scheff in the end of "Okkervil River song", a song that appeared near the end of a Okkervil River's explosive set in Oslo on this dreary evening, and all was good in that kind of near-religious way that only occurs when you realise that a band is beyond good.
I had my trepidations with going to see this band, originally. I'd not heard anything but some songs I had found on the net a few months, in fact, before. As such, I had no idea what to expect, apart from some country-ish folkrock songs apparently about killing people. Killing people seems to be a recurring theme with Okkervil River, and such dark themes always get a plus in my books. After the previously mentioned half hour of horrible waiting, the band is on and ripping through some numbers, swinging guitars and battering drums and lapsteel guitars.
The singing is high, and so are spirits as the band dash through some ripping folkrock anthems (to the extent that folkrock can have such) like "Black" and "For real". However, it is the tender moments that are the best, particularly songs like "Black Sheep Boy" and "A King and a Queen" in which soft melodies really fill the space of the venue. Okkervil River possess a great skill in telling stories through their songs that don't feel contrived or forced. This is something rare that you don't really find that often in bands in particular.
Furthermore, the band play with a contagious joy that has every single head bopping, as well as some strangely well dressed fans jumping around and actually doing the "we're not worthy" bow best known from that time honoured film classic, Wayne's World. As the last drifts of the crooning murder tale "Westfall" slip out of the amps and guitars and trumpets and drums and lord knows what else, the confirmation that Okkervil River are, indeed, great is set in stone.
The band's latest album, Black Sheep Boy, a collection of glorious songs, is out now on Virgin/EMI in Europe and the brilliantly named Jagjaguwar in the U.S of A.
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