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all words: William Alberque
all photos: Lauren Bulbin

I’ve been lucky enough to see Oh Land three times – once, briefly, at a CMJ showcase, and then twice opening for OMD back in March (I missed out on her opening for SIA in July).  This is my first chance to see her headline, though, and at a late sell-out on the mainstage at the Black Cat.  Lovely.

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The crowd is absolutely packed with stylishly overdressed young women, fashionable gay men, and single men on the prowl.

Savoir Adore

The opener is a Brooklyn act I’ve never heard, Savoir Adore. Adore is a core band of Deidre Muro (vox, keys) and Paul Hammer (vox, guitar), filled out on stage with an additional guitarist, a bassist and a drummer.  They sound excellent – like a less shoe-gazey Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and I’m already a fan.  They play about eight songs, and variously remind me of Stars and Arcade Fire as the night goes along.

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The deal vocals are just excellent, with Muro and Hammer both contrasting and complementing each other at turns.  They cross from pure guitar indie-pop to quite danceable electronica and back again throughout the set and I spend their entire show riveted.

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My favorite moment in the Savoir Adore set, though, is “Loveliest Creature,” when the entire band sing, “you are the loveliest creature” with their arms clapping in time above their heads. It’s hair-raisingly beautiful, and I think it’s the moment in their set where things turned. The previously distracted crowd now get more and more worked up by the remaining few songs in Adore’s set, and by the end, are chanting their name and asking for another song.  Excellent work by the band, and I hope to see them again soon.  In the meantime, download this piece of pure confection/perfection, and thank me later.

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When I first saw Oh Land at CMJ, she (for it is Nanna Øland Fabricius) came on stage – a gorgeous, leggy Danish model – with a giant mirrored light box and a set of white balloons onto which she projected her face, her body dancing, and a wolf’s face – and played four or five songs that were catchy without being particularly memorable.  It all seemed a bit contrived, a bit slight.

Oh Land

All the more amazing, then, to see Fabricius back again, this time playing a seventeen-song set of utter and complete perfection. She’s the new Emiliana Torrini, with all the beauty and songwriting skill that entails, and the wit and stage presence to gain and maintain a fanatical following.  I get the feeling that a lot of the younger girls here tonight are hoping to be her – the model made good as a singer and record producer.  They should do so well.

Oh Land

Fabricius starts, appropriately enough, with “Perfection,” a Florence and the Machine-esque enchanter with harp-key sounds and rolling synth drums.  “Break the Chain” follows, and she’s got the crowd in the palm of her hand, setting up perfectly for the storming “Son of a Gun.”

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It’s irresistible electro pop, full of poses and swing, and Fabricius pulls it off with poise.  A slightly less memorable mid-section of the set includes slow jams “Voodoo,” and “Wolf & I,” reminding me quite a bit of Bat for Lashes.  “Lean” furthers this comparison, though Fabricius’ precious Danish accent adds a lightness and naiveté to the proceedings.

Oh Land

“Audition Day” is stronger, with Fabricius chanting “hear the heartbeat: boom boom boom boom.”  The audience up front is enraptured, but towards the back, a lot of them are blabbing away to each other – much to my chagrin (but not surprise).  Capricious.  “Helicopter” follows, before she decides to sing a love song.  She warns, though, that singing a love song makes her vulnerable, proceeding with the beautiful “Deepsea” and “Heavy Eyes.” “Rainbow” brings the energy levels back up, but we haven’t even touched the highlights of the set yet.  Oh, no.

Oh Land

Fabricius apologizes in advance as this will be the first time she plays this particular cover song live. I immediately know what she’s going to play, and my eyes widen –  it’s the National’s “Bloodbuzz, Ohio,” and she does an AMAZING job of it.  It’s beautiful, delicate, emotional – a worthy tribute to an amazing song.  Raul, an investment banker here in DC is taken by the moment, and embraces me, imploring me to keep writing and helping the city get better.  I heartily agree and join him in a drink.

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“Human” is next, with huge beats, driving guitar, and a breathtaking ending – this deserves to be a massive, massive pop hit. Some hilarity ensues as Fabricius admits the next song is from the Eclipse soundtrack, all-but-apologizing before breaking into the perfectly serviceable “Twist.” But it’s “White Nights” that much of the crowd’s been waiting for, and they all join in a full-throated sing-along for the duration.  Fabricius says it’s about jumping off a cliff and not going to sleep, and anything being possible, and for those four minutes, it feels like an amazing combination of those things.  On to the encore.

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A friend comes over to bemoan that she’s not likely to play his favorite song by Oh Land.  She’s come back out to play the beautiful torch-song, “Frostbite,” and I’m happy, but then she plays the song he (and at least some of the substantial crowd that remains) were waiting for – “We Turn It up.” This is pop perfection, and everyone’s dancing now to the irresistible beats and melodies of this perfect song.  It’s a great way to end the night, with the call and response – “we don’t care about what you say” – being shouted by the crowd at full voice.  A lovely evening.

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