Wholly egalitarian, mildly eccentric, fully fervent and alt with a capital ‘A’, are perfect slogans for describing the live version of Katzenjammer. On this opening gig of a latest attempt to breach the UK market, these four highly talented ladies, morphing into one of Norway’s finest musical exports, gave a timely reminder as to why they have been tearing up mainland European venues for a while now. With an extraordinary display of interchangeable musicianship, Marianne, Turid, Solveig and Anne Marit flit across every shade of the roots spectrum in genre defying proportions. A packed Rescue Rooms in the heart of Nottingham city centre was in a frivolous Friday night party mood to dance, sing and clap along to a lengthy set exceeding an hour and a half, which is above par for a curfew restrictive weekend venue. Many came to marvel and were well and truly exhilarated by this energetic Katzenjammer performance.
|Anne Marit Bergheim|
The eclecticism was sheer head spinning for the mere mortal observer with each band member rising to the challenge to deliver in creative ways and rarely failing to succeed. Few would dispute the demonic delving of Marianne on keyboards as a moment of pure emotion when she poured out a series of memorable pieces. All three of the band’s albums were extensively represented with the excellent recent ROCKLAND release getting an airing in its entirety to propel it onto a superior plane. Whether the miniature pink piano was the tenth, fifteenth or twentieth instrument used on stage, it sure housed the stand out song of the evening as ‘Shine Like Neon Rays’ made it a double favourite after heading the fine rollercoaster of rockin’ tunes on the new record. For many present, the opportunity to join in with ‘Rock Paper Scissors’ raised the heat on the evening, although the frenzied activity on stage did that adequately on its own.
The freshness, frivolity and charismatic chemistry from the foursome was aplenty with subtle humour from Solveig, and a more serious interlude from Marianne as she explained the background to the track ‘Lady Gray’ and its link to the relationship between music and dealing with Alzheimer’s. We were also reminded of the origin of the term Rockland and the song itself was one of the few tender moments on an evening that was firmly defined by the other end of the tempo scale. Solveig’s encore entrance armed with trumpet crowned an evening of supreme musicianship that was totally underpinned by the band’s trademark cat faced contrabass balalaika.
It would be remiss for a critic not to attempt to pin some kind of label on the sounds of Katzenjammer and the presence of banjo, Dobra and harmonica give an intrinsic folk-Americana feel to a number of their songs. Anne Marit opened up on banjo and was comfortable playing a variety of string instruments; likewise Turid started on bass and frequently went back to it after various instrument excursions. Vocally the band was entirely democratic with its distribution of lead roles although Marianne showed the greatest range with ear splitting pleasure when the vocal chords were suitably stretched, especially as the show reached its crescendo.
While ROCKLAND goes from strength to strength with its acclaim, the latest featured track from it went down a storm with the crowd as ‘My Dear’ saw the band move into a full on feel good mode. This wander into the world of refined pop is a peep into the flamboyant side of Katzenjammer and the evening also saw sporadic outbreaks of Balkan style folk, accordion hip hop and rebel rousing mid European bar music. The band members had recently spent time apart and soaked up the musical environments of places such as London and Nashville. It was quite vivid to imagine the band going down a storm in the famed Ryman Auditorium and delighting many a roots enthusiast in the Americana community.
The underlying theme from this totally enthralling and awe-inspiring gig was that simplicity is king or perhaps queen in this context. The passion was burning intensely and the micro focus was a constant stream of magnificence. Katzenjammer is a jaw dropping must see act and retain an air of credibility in whichever direction they head. They produced the most memorable of stunning live shows and long may they keep UK venues on their horizon.