Ed Harcourt and Sondre Lerche stopped in Atlanta Monday night to wrap up their U.S. tour. Norwegian-born Lerche had already opened the night when I arrived. According to the doorman I only missed two songs so I quickly grabbed one of the remaining spots on the bar steps.
When I saw that Lerche was alone on stage I was disappointed. Faces Down, Lerche’s debut, made a huge impression on me with its dense, unique instrumentation; I assumed his songs would lose at least some of their effect when he played them alone. Nothing, it turned out, could be further from the truth. As I sat on the steps of the bar, his immense talent as a young songwriter and performer hit me hard.
During “Dead Passengers,” the catchy opener from Faces Down, I started to feel like I was watching the beginning of something wonderful. Though his age bleeds through now and then, his performance foreshadowed greatness to come.
The comfortable and confident Lerche engaged the crowd with his charming wit and lack of cynicism, asking us to sing along here and there. He was funny, but not sarcastic, condescending only to himself when he said “I’m going to play my stupid guitar.” He wasn’t self-deprecating but he seemed to understand the virtue in minimal banter between songs. He had a tendency to slap his own wrist when he felt like he had talked too long.
He flipped his disheveled hair through a Strokes-inspired version of “Sleep On Needles” as though begging for a barber and a pair of scissors. After the song, the loudest and fastest of the night, Lerche apologized; He claimed his evil twin brother Eddie Lerche had actually snuck out to play that one. “He is such a bastard,” Lerche said. Then he invited Harcourt to sit behind the piano and duet with him.
Lerche’s real life quirks are like his music, pleasant and cheery but not boring. He’s squeaky clean in both looks and language—he drank nothing but water on stage, and “bastard” was the dirtiest word he said all night.
On the other hand, Lerche’s travel-mate, Ed Harcourt, appeared to be relatively under the influence when he arrived on stage. By the end of the show, he’d informed the audience about the dirty underwear he had on and asked who was going to be having sex later.
Harcourt began his performance seated at the piano and played a beautiful, subdued version of “All of Your Days Will be Blessed.” Then he dedicated a quiet “Apple of my Eye” to two girls standing behind me. After a few songs he stood up and swaggered to his acoustic guitar.
It was surprising to see that Harcourt is left-handed and simply flips a right-handed guitar over. The strings remain upside down lending his guitar a thin, ringing tone when he strums it.
He used a two-mic setup switching between them for different tones. A tear-shaped one looked like something from the ’50s and made Harcourt sound like he was singing into a jar.
A moving version of “The Birds Will Sing for Us” cast Harcourt as a lovesick sweetheart and the audience seemed to respond to the soft voice and scruffy face projecting the song.
Harcourt returned Lerche’s invitation for a duet, as Lerche came out late during the main set and for the encore. They glided through “Metaphorically Yours” during the encore. As Harcourt opened with the line “baby just admit if both my wrists were slit you’d bandage them with style and grace,” Lerche’s harmonies filled it out perfectly. Harcourt ended the show with a couple of stomps on the piano and one final shin across the keys.