Lost Tour – Trentemøller & T.O.M. And His Computer
November 22, 2014 @ Neumos in Seattle
By Justin Jensen
Opening act T.O.M. And His Computer performed for only 30 minutes, but served as a welcome refresher for what fans have come to expect from a Trentemøller show. First haunting synth, reminiscent of the Theremin, and then comes the spine-tingling bass line. As the energy slowly builds from down-tempo beats through echoing drumrolls, the crowd bears witness to T.O.M. in a full suit, starting to sweat into what I can only describe as a “reverse mullet.”
Crashing waves of feedback begin to take over and the DJ slides into Portishead’s classic “Roads.” Then, before you know it, the Theremin sound comes back with a vengeance. (A “tannerin” or “electro-Theremin” sounds a lot like the spooky 1950s “no-touch” classic Theremin but it’s controlled by a pitch knob attached to a slider on the outside of a box, most famously featured on the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations.” Here it closes out T.O.M’s set, leaving the audience with chills and a healthy longing for Trentemøller himself.)
Expecting Trentemøller alone with his gear, I was pleasantly surprised to see five people take the stage. This ain’t your momma’s Trentemøller show. (Your cool, slightly older cousin’s Trentemøller show maybe?) What was once dark is now bright. What was minimal is maximal. What was an auteur with his technology is now a full band, rocking a sold-out Neumos.
In an era before songwriters got their proper due, this act might have been dubbed Marie Fisker & The Trentemøllers. A fellow Dane, the pixie-like Fisker collaborated with Trentemøller on “Candy Tongue” from the current album. Tonight she’s playing guitar and singing on at least half the tracks from Lost, as well as material from Trentemøller’s earlier catalogue. She will not be able to escape the inevitable Siouxsie Sioux comparisons (any hope she may have had dashed by Trentemøller sporting a Siouxsie T-shirt). That’s OK, though; we mean it as a compliment. Moreover, she’s not just a budget Siouxsie – she’s actually got more range, evidenced by the hybrid rock, folk, pop and country sound on her own album.
In addition to Fisker on guitar and vocals, another guitarist, bassist and drummer rounded out the act. A smattering of instrumental tracks managed to keep Trentemøller front and center for much of the performance, whereas some of the vocal numbers saw him relegated to the tambourine or the maracas, content to rejoice while his sonic creations surged ahead of their own momentum.
In fact, “surging” might be the best way to describe the music on offer November 22 at Neumos. The set started with a predictable 130-bpm groove, but quickly disintegrated into a wave of synthesizer sound, followed by some scary guitars and Trentemøller on a tiny keyboard. A little more of that now-familiar Theremin sound and the soundtrack for a rollicking space adventure was underway.
As the shadows grew long, Trentemøller’s new wave bona fides were on display as we moved into “Major Tom”-esque territory before the live instruments really took over.
The story of the night was largely (and surprisingly) told with guitars, but we took a time out in the middle for Trentemøller to bang out a drum duo, a fat bass guitar solo and a twinkling xylophone solo. Then, all of this together in a swirling, psychedelic, electro-prog-rock freak-out. The nervous energy and new wave beat coalesce and remind us of Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime” before closing the set with Trentemøller’s quintessential hit “Moan.” Fisker nails it and the crowd goes wild.
The requisite encore starts at a dirge-like pace. Compared, at least, to the frenetic explosion of sound minutes before. A sinister, throbbing pulse soon takes over and the Siouxsie vibes grow ever stronger as Fisker’s “oh, oh oh” refrain plucks our heartstrings. In fact, she’s quit plucking her guitar strings to focus solely on the vocals for this encore (a backup guitarist is now the sixth player on stage). Until the final moments, when Fisker takes up her axe and we’ve come once more from low and slow, through new wave to a place of swirling guitar riffs and full-on psychedelic jamming, and as the three guitars fight for dominance and the drums/bass struggle to keep up, above it all you hear Trentemøller on keys triumphantly banging out the final chords of a victory lap. You can’t help but feel he’s earned it.