Sort Sol

Søndermarken, Copenhagen - 2018

Text: Tobias Nilsson Photo: Lunah Lauridsen

My first musical encounter with Sort Sol came shortly after moving to Denmark. Holler High was all the rage on the airwaves, and I fell for its seductive charm. Admittedly, I never delved deep into the band’s doings after this, but I kept regarding them as a band I’d like if I ever did. Sadly, I missed them last year at For Evigt Rock in Rødovre (you can still see the photos though), so I was glad to get another chance now, thanks to Sommertid I Søndermarken.

“Good evening, Copenhagen! What a summernight.”
- Steen Jørgensen (vocals)


As C.V. Jørgensen before them, Sort Sol also went with a simple backdrop, which showed three faces unconvincingly made up in the style of old-time film monsters - quite nice and fun to look at.
Here the likeness ended however, because apart from that there was nothing simple about Sort Sol’s appearance. They started out with six persons on the stage, and that was even without having the drummer (Tomas Ortved) present for the first song! There was a guy playing keyboards (Timm Mason), a bassist who was also playing keyboards (The Ace), two guitarists who were both also playing keyboards (Lars Top-Galia and Manoj Ramdas), and a woman playing steel guitar (Maggie Björklund). And of course Steen Jørgensen, in baseball cap and dark sunglasses, delivering the vocals. As you can imagine, the stage was a mess! A controlled and ordered one, sure, but a mess nonetheless.
Kicking off with Stor, Langsom Stjerne (=big, slow star), the title track of the band’s latest album (released a little over a year ago, and the band’s first full-length release in 16 years), Sort Sol very much set the tone from the start of what their show would be about. This was dark, very synth-based pop rock - not very accessible, and certainly not upbeat or summery music.

That the music isn’t accessible is one thing, and it doesn’t even have to be a very big thing. If the show isn’t accessible, that’s another thing. And that thing, sadly, was very much a big thing here. Sort Sol didn’t do much to invite their audience inside their universe, the less the better it would seem. Jørgensen didn’t say much between songs, and all of the musicians seemed to prefer their own fortress of solitude, over reaching out and grabbing our attention. Sure, there was some action going on, especially from Top-Galia and Ramdas, but at the same time as they were rocking out, it was clear how cut off they were from the crowd, and from each other. It wasn’t until the very last song, Tatlin Tower, that Top-Galia, Ramdas, and Mason, who had also donned a guitar by this time got together and bounced a bit of energy off each other. That was releasing feeling, but too little and definitely too late.
Another problem was Jørgensen’s voice. Listen to those great tracks you remember them for, listen to that soulful timbre, the melody, the richness of the sound. Now scrape away all that, and replace it with a raspy, flat, and basically uninterested near-spoken word performance. Not so exciting, is it? I can’t say if there is some special reason behind this change, but the feeling I walked away with, was that he was simply too cool to make an effort. This feeling pretty much encapsulated the entire show.

Surprisingly, not from my reaction to the show, but from my belief in the band’s popularity, Sort Sol had by far the smallest attendance of the three artists we saw this day. The ground right in front of the stage was so open, you could easily walk straight in at any given time and attain a comfortable frontline position. Sure, the people who had attained their places, were very much in favour of the band, and were glad to show them by cheering them on and wriggly dance about, but the overall support for Sort Sol was clearly lacking. Who knows, maybe others had the same experience as I did, and were just quicker to catch on?

I will still recommend Sort Sol on album - they have a unique sound, and it hits me in a similar way as Paradise Lost’s Host album does (which clearly wasn’t for everyone either), which I’ve grown to love over the years.
Live though, not so much. I’m glad I finally did get to see the band, but I have no immediate need of trying it again.

Setlist:

Stor, Langsom Stjerne
Next Century
Dog Star Man
Holler High
Kiss The Streets
Siggimund Blue
K-141 Kursk
Daughter Of Sad
...Like A Trance Like…
Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Wolf
Shaheeba Baby
Abyss Revisited
Let Your Fingers Do The Talking
Tatlin Tower

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