Solid, steady, but little we haven’t seen before

December 31st, 2012

This article is more than 11 years old.

**** (4 stars out of 6); December 22 at Store Vega

When the first notes floated out over the audience on this pre-Christmas night, it was easy to forget where you were. Never mind the lights or the jam-packed concert hall – this felt much more like a coffee shop or a friend’s basement than Store Vega, and I was convinced that the crooner onstage was an old friend, not acclaimed singer-songwriter Thomas Dybdahl.

After all, you’re bound to feel a sort of familiarity anytime that a musician greets an expectant audience with a chuckle and a warm “we’ve sung together before, haven’t we?” It was exactly this sense of warmth that Dybdahl maintained throughout the evening, alternating between his delicate, blues-tinged tracks and answering questions or sharing anecdotes with the audience. With Dybdahl never in much of a hurry to transition from one to the other, the concert was a perfect coupling of intimacy and sound.

Dybdahl’s signature style – a blend of guitar-driven tracks, Jeff Buckley-style vocals and a hint of Elvis’s blues – have earned him local and international acclaim since the release of his first album, That Great October Sound, in 2002. But despite the notoriety of his initial endeavours, he has struggled ever since to match the success of his earlier albums. While the atmosphere and quality of performance were hard to beat, the lack of originality Dybdahl has been battling was reflected in his performance.

It was easy to feel as though I’d been to this concert before, even as a first-time spectator. The lines with which Dybdahl charmed the audience were, as fellow concert-goers told me, exactly the same he’d used with Vega audiences in years past. He played only one song from an upcoming album, and instead stuck to years-old tracks that he knew from experience would go over well with his audience. While his performance met expectations, it didn’t exceed them – and his reluctance to take risks cost the concert any sense of originality. He didn’t disappoint, but he didn’t exactly blow me away either.

Even so, the audience didn’t seem to mind the lack of creativity. Perhaps the pinnacle of the night came when he introduced crowd favourites like ‘Cecilia’ and ‘From Grace’, both of which were met with enthused reactions from the audience. Their eager singing along during both songs all but drowned out Dybdahl’s own voice.

All in all, Dybdahl’s concert provided a relaxing transition in the week of holiday celebrations to follow: comfortable, cosy, and entirely predictable. Given the lack of surprises, it would be a hard sell to convince me to shell out next time for the same thing.


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