KALEO – Powerstation, April 11, 2023 (Concert Review)

Kaleo

KALEO are a powerhouse blues rock band from Iceland, and with their debut concert in New Zealand, they ripped this joint. Drive myself right over the wall, gonna save your soul!

They have opened for the Rolling Stones in 2017 at a show in Hamburg, Germany. In fact, they have been selling out tours across America after their debut album A/B in 2016. This current tour they come via the Byron Bay Bluesfest in Australia, amongst a stellar line-up of blues and rock artists.

Their popularity is matched here with this being the first of two sold-out shows at the Powerstation.

Leader and focal point of the group is Jokul Juliusson (JJ), voice and guitars. Their name translates as Voice in Hawaiian. Arrives on stage with a wide-brimmed black hat, a nod to Stevie Ray Vaughn. His singing is immediately powerful and distinctive, and Eddie Vedder comes to mind. With the ability to contrast light tones and big, impassioned blasts.

The band came together around 2012 in Mosfellsbaer, Iceland. JJ was joined by long time friends David Antonsson drums, and Daniel Kristjansson bass. A classic power trio at first and subsequently augmented by Rubin Pollock guitar, and Porleifur Daviosson harmonica, pedal steel and congas.

Break My Baby has a spooky atmosphere to start. Under the big black hat JJ looks like Johnny Depp in pirate mode. Which is a channelling of Keith Richard originally. All of which means he has the image projection down pat. The band fires up and they get heavy like early Black Sabbath.

Broken Bones and they immerse themselves in one of their acknowledged direct influences, Delta blues. The devils gonna make me a free man/ The devils gonna set me free. A voodoo blues with a slow and nasty edge. Set to the same rhythm as Sixteen Tons.

I Can’t Go On and JJ straps on a resonator guitar, to dive deeper into the Delta tones of a Son House. Nothing hurts like a woman can.

All the Pretty Girls and the band demonstrate a softer, folk-oriented sound. The voice is in a high tenor to falsetto range, and it sounds like the pastoral benedictions of cult favourite album Veedon Fleece from Van Morrison.

Nathan Cavaleri

Nathan Cavaleri is an Australian and is also making his debut appearance in New Zealand.

KaleoA child prodigy, he was mastering guitar by the age of six as well as being a child actor in movies by seven. He has been lauded by the likes of BB King (the future of the blues) and Mark Knopfler at the age of thirteen.

He had to overcome leukaemia at a young age. He also withdrew from music and society in general when he suffered under the cloud of anxiety and depression about ten years ago.

The burden of being a gifted artist from an early age can be just as much a curse as a blessing.

Castles in the Sky and he starts with a jaw-dropping blast of a song. Guitar riffs in burst like the Stooges Search and Destroy. Moves into Allman Brothers Southern R’n’B with second guitar Kenny. Closes it out with some high-keening note-bending guitar tones of All Along the Watchtower. The Hendrix version of course.

A third player, Tommy, plays acoustic guitar as well as some trumpet and knee-slaps for percussion.   

Demons has some slow and soulful Delta slide, accompanying lyrics like I had demons sleeping in my bed. The song is upbeat and sunny, with some beautiful horn accents.

Boho Limousine has a John Lee Hooker stomp beat which lifts the low-voiced growled vocals.

At times they do sound like a good pub rock band. But then so do the Rolling Stones a lot of the time. Like their closing song Man on Fire.

He was a refreshing blast of rock’n’roll blues, but I feel that there would be a lot more to come if we can catch him as a headline act. Which I am sure will happen.

KALEO

The palette of musical styles this band can draw from is impressive.

KaleoBackbone starts with the atmospherics of Twin Peaks as the guitars lay down some cool Hawaiian sounds. The singer is in full Eddie Vedder mode, and then surpasses that with some high keening. Taking the song to the peaks of their lands famous volcanoes.

Vor I Vaglaskogi is sung in Icelandic, and it is a stunning ballad. It follows a melody line like St James Infirmary, but the atmosphere is Ennio Morricone western movie.

They have mastered Southern boogie rock’n’roll. Congas add a little Latino accent. The harmonica breaks stand out. They like Little Walter too.

When JJ picks up an acoustic guitar for I Want More, they can play the roots country with a blues style of Creedence Clearwater Revival.

What about Zepp? Another of their favourites. That comes at the end.

No Good has some brutal crunching riffs reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog.

Last song Rock’n’Roller repeats that again but with dirty fuzzed Sixties Link Wray guitar mayhem.

You get what you came for! KALEO with their debut concert show us why their reputation is justified.

Rev Orange Peel

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