Lyrics might be lost in translation, but the energy isn’t

Von Dü ***** (5 stars out of 6); March 1 at Pumpehuset

Reggae-dancehall band Von Dü frequently boast of their high-energy shows heavy on audience interaction, claiming that one can’t help but walk away from a concert with the urge to keep talking about it days afterward. And it was clear that the crowd at Pumpehuset on Friday night were expecting exactly that: the audience anticipation was nearly palpable while waiting for the band to take the stage. Even as a first-time Von Dü concertgoer, I could feel that the enthusiasm was infectious.

When the nine-piece band finally did show up – albeit 90 minutes after the advertised time – the crowd seemed to have barely noticed the delay. A collective cheer rang out from the audience as soon as the group took the stage, and the craze only amplified when lead vocalist Morten Nygaard announced that they were celebrating their fifth anniversary with tonight’s concert.

Von Dü have become an integral part of the Danish reggae scene in the past five years, due largely to their witty lyrics and punchy social commentary. The band’s 2010 debut ‘Tak til de gamle’ (‘Thanks to the old’) garnered critical acclaim for its commentary on social issues like gang violence and police activity around Copenhagen. Their sophomore effort, ‘Beskidte tanker’ (‘Dirty thoughts’), however, has received less-than-ideal reviews for lyrics that are noticeably lighter on political criticism and heavier on cheeky sexual innuendo.

But Friday’s show was short on neither. Take, for example, the audience favourite ‘Wienerfritzl’, a critical-yet-catchy tune detailing the life of infamous Austrian rapist Joseph Fritzl (the refrain of which is still engrained in the head of this reviewer). And for contrast, consider ‘Sexy slange’ (‘Sexy snake’), a slightly less serious number that calls upon lyrics like “Don’t be afraid of the sexy snake” to make painfully obvious that the song has nothing to do with reptiles. The band was also joined onstage by rapper/singer/producer Pato Siebenhaar, who accompanied Von Dü on several tracks. The audience soaked up all of it, jumping and singing and shouting along.

Infectious energy aside, Von Dü’s wit and sass might be completely lost on someone who doesn’t speak Danish. Luckily for those of us non-Danes in the audience, however, the band’s undeniable stage presence and knack for incorporating the crowd into their live shows more than made up for the language barrier. I, for one, normally feel far less engaged with music in foreign languages. What’s more, I’m far from a reggae aficionado and don’t exactly fit into Von Dü’s target audience. All of this considered, even I couldn’t resist the urge to clap and dance along.

So, fellow Anglophones: fear not! Even if the subtlest of Von Dü’s witticisms are over your head, it’s safe to venture that you’ll find something else to cheer about.