It’s a chilly winter’s evening in Kolding, a provincial town in Denmark. The Danish band, Folkeklubben (‘the people’s club’), started their latest tour, promoting their fourth album, Sort tulipan (‘Black Tulip’), a few days previously, and tonight it’s Kolding’s turn. Living up to the band’s name, Folkeklubben has a reputation for being a band of the people that not only tours Denmark’s bigger towns and stages but also in small villages and venues where many other bands might not play.
Their latest album might be their proper breakthrough album and is less acoustic than their previous folkier albums, which is reflected in tonight’s concert. The three members of the band, Kjartan Arngrim (vocals, guitar), Rasmus Dall (guitar, keyboard, backing vocals) and Rasmus Jusjong (drums, percussion, backing vocals) are joined by an additional musician, bass player Ida Davidsen, who adds extra depth and groove to the songs.
Arngrim and Dall also switch acoustic guitars for electric guitars on more songs than usual, and drummer Jusjong has got himself a proper drumkit compared to previous tours, where he would use a suitcase as a bass drum. This might not quite be ‘when Dylan went electric’, but Folkeklubben has undoubtedly cultivated a fuller sound, sometimes rockier, sometimes dreamily ambient. The sound is more polished than in the days where their songs had a more, dare I say, amateurish charm attached to them. They no longer sound like ‘amateurs’, but the charm is still present.
Frontman and lyricist, Arngrim has a strong stage presence without even doing very much. I guess it’s just an aura that some people have. His voice confidently carries the words of the songs that he writes so well. For people who don’t understand Danish, the songs will not come across the same way. Much of the songs’ strength lies in the beautiful, innovative, intelligent, funny, creatively-constructed sentences. I am not saying that the music isn’t great too. The band members have studied the masters of songwriting closely and learned how to write appealing melodies and beautiful arrangements.
They play the title song of their latest album, Sort tulipan, a song inspired by Danish poet Michael Strunge who killed himself by jumping from his fourth-floor balcony in 1986, aged 27. But first, Arngrim makes sure to explain the song isn’t meant to endorse suicide: ‘If we had played this song in Russia, we would have gone to prison because in Russia it’s illegal to endorse suicide in a song. But I will hasten to add that we are not telling people to jump in the harbour; no, the song is about the long, drawn-out suicide that occurs when you go on with your long life after having given up on your dreams and forsaken your ideals.’
Then the band plays the gentle yet morbid song, where the chorus goes: Jeg vil dø som en sort tulipan (‘I want to die like a black tulip’), og springe ud fra den smukkeste altan (‘and jump from the most beautiful balcony’), i en film og rolle jeg kan bære (‘in a film and a role I can carry’), lev dit smukke liv… eller lad være’ (‘live your beautiful life… or don’t’).
The concert is divided into two sets, between which there’s a 15-minutes break. It feels a bit like when you watch a play at the theatre. Maybe the gap serves the musicians well, but the break slows the concert’s flow down, and when the lights go down again, it takes several minutes before the band members stroll back on stage, which arrests the otherwise good vibe a bit.
However, the concert gets back in full bloom when the band launches into the first song of the second set, Missionshotellet (‘The Mission Hotel’). I am not sure what the song is about, but I hear it as a story about two friends who leave the city behind and go on an adventure to the outskirts of their country. A song about appreciating your country. All of it. Not just the big cities and hip neighbourhoods: Vi drog ud til det land der lå udenfor byen, det forsvinder nok en dag (‘We went out to that country that lies outside of town, it will probably disappear someday’).
Around 11 pm, we’ve spent two hours in the dreamscape of the band up there on the stage. Now the concert is over, and it’s time to go back outside into the cold night. Get in our cars and on our bikes and disappear into the dark landscape and all our separate lives.
The last lines of Sort tulipan (‘Black Tulip’) seem especially poignant after it’s all over: Det er din film og din rolle må du bære (‘It’s your film and your role that you must carry’), Lev dit smukke liv eller lad være (‘Live your beautiful life – or don’t’). After an uplifting and life-affirming concert like this, living ‘one’s beautiful life’ looks pretty doable.
1. Cohiba Zanzibar
2. Alle vil de vide hvorhen
4. Flammende hjerter
5. Slå flint
6. Par nr. 7
7. Hvis jeg ku’
8. Sort tulipan
9. Falden gud
10. Åh, at være en høne (Break)
12. Idioterne og vennerne
13. Klokkerne ringer
14. For pengene
15. Ske noget mere
16. Tænker tit
18. Hvor smukt kan det regne
19. Ikke endnu en vinter
20. Den sidste superstar
22. Late Night Summer Jesus
23. Torben Ulrich