Love in Stockholm

Middle East Downstairs

December 4 2010


So it was probably the end of October, or so, when I got an email from Charlie Rockwell.  I get a lot of emails from bands like this, “Hey Mister, we’re in a great band, what do you think?”  Because of this website and other work I do with bands, I get a lot of contact from bands, which I love!  I get anywhere from 2-10 of these types of emails a day,  and I often can’t even find the time to look them up at all.  But for some reason I clicked on their site and listened to the songs on their Sonicbids EPK.

I was immediately struck by the band’s high quality-  Rockwell’s voice is amazing and the songwriting was great too-  I found myself going back to their music day after day, and started up a conversation with Charlie about their band.  A few weeks later, in the middle of November, we cruised over to Tufts to check out the band at a show they were doing there.  That show was fun and we had a good time, but I went away not really knowing anything more about the band-  the sound was limited and the crowd was small- being a graduate mixer on a holiday weekend- so I was a little frustrated that I didn’t know more about the band after seeing them.

So we planned to go to their next “real” Boston show- at the Middle East on a multi-band bill that we knew was going to be packed full of fans.  And sure enough, with Brothers McCann and Hey Mama on the bill, and it being one of the last Hey Mama shows in Beantown- it was packed full of young urban music fans ready to boogie down.  This show was filled with bands whose lead singers had serious talent.  Since that was what caught me most about Love in Stockholm, I was hopeful that the tradition of vocal quality would continue into their set.

The room had started to lighten after the Hey Mama set, as it was clear that this was “their” show.  But there were still lots of people around- even after the last train from the area was leaving.  Love in Stockholm took the stage and started to kill it, immediately.  The band is tight, especially for a band so relatively young.  I’m guessing that they have somewhere around 100 or 150 shows under their belt, but they were displaying some dexterity and ability in their playing-  horns were complimentary but not overpowering- guitar pleasantly jumped in and tastefully shredded in the right spots, and the rhythm section held it down perfectly.

But the main focus of this band is the singer.  Charlie started singing in church, and got caught up into the Boston music scene like millions of other young musicians over the last century.  His vocal style is an amalgam of influences, most obviously among them Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, and others.  There is a serious southern inflection, perhaps a result of the church singing, to his tone and style- a bravado and confidence exudes from him while he is singing.  The brashness of a young Mick Jagger or the aforementioned Steven Tyler is front and center in Rockwell’s swagger.  This is something that we seek out of our lead singers, and Rockwell has it in spades.

The band fired through the songs from their latest album A King’s Ransom including my favorites- The Buzzard, Water, and Superstar.  But as a wise band playing in a club will do, they also mixed in covers.  From their recent Halloween show covering the Beatles Sgt Peppers album, When I’m Sixty Four came out early in the set.  Like the other covers that followed, this tune has been put into the Love in Stockholm transformer, and it pops out as a funk and soul tune- not nearly the sentimental song that the Fab Four wrote decades earlier.  It seems that most of the covers coming out of Love in Stockholm have been passed through their transformer- taking old favorites and bathing them in a light that is new and fresh.  Other classics like Bombs over Bagdad, and Van Morrison’s Caravan were equally transmorgaphied with excellent results.

As the set progressed, Celia Woodsmith from Hey Mama came back out on stage and joined Love in Stockholm for a couple of songs.  Since she had lent her vocals to their album as well, it was a natural for her to join them on stage.  She was still clearly high from the set she played with her band, and the feel good vibes spread across the stage and into the audience.  The room heated up and Rockwell was shedding his formal wear, until he was donned in just his dress shirt and pants, having discarded his vest and tie, his suspenders hanging wildly as he strutted the stage.

Love in Stockholm is still learning how to harness their energy, and you can tell that this is a band that will grow with every new song that they write, every big show that they play.  They have plenty of upcoming shows, and with their next Boston performance to be New Year’s Eve at Precinct, and then in mid February with Rustic Overtones at the Brighton Music Hall- New England fans will have ample opportunity to check them out.  But Beantown is not the only place to catch them, as upcoming shows at ski areas like Stratton and Loon Mountain dot their schedule, along with club shows throughout the Northeast.  Catch these guys while they are still in clubs, as it is likely that they won’t last there for long. 

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