Live Review: Kaleo with Bishop Briggs and The Wind and The Wave at Livewire, Scottsdale, AZ – 2nd November 2016

By on Thursday, 10th November 2016 at 2:00 pm

My most recent TGTF road trip took me north from Tucson to Scottsdale, which is part of the Phoenix metro area, and a slightly longer drive than my usual 2-hour gig trek. The night’s venue, Livewire AZ, is located adjacent to Scottsdale Fashion Square, an upscale suburban shopping center, and at first glance, its ambience is as sterile and superficial as you might expect from such an overtly trendy venue. Aside from its lack of distinguishing character, Livewire turned out to be, well, not a bad place to see a show, and a singularly appropriate venue for the night’s headliner, Icelandic/American alt-rock band Kaleo.


I arrived at Livewire to find a long queue of patrons, and though the queue moved quickly, the evening’s first support act had already taken the stage when I got inside. Luckily for me, it was a band I’d seen quite recently, Butch Walker protégés The Wind and the Wave. The Austin-based folk-rock duo had impressed me back in September at Los Angeles’ much smaller Teragram Ballroom, and they didn’t disappoint here at Scottsdale’s Livewire.

The brighter acoustics of the room benefitted The Wind and the Wave’s warm guitar and vocal quality, especially the ringing harmonies between singer Patricia Lynn and guitarist Dwight Baker. Though most of the crowd seemed new to their music, The Wind and the Wave garnered an overwhelmingly positive response from their Arizona audience with single ‘Grand Canyon’ and the title track to their recent album ‘Happiness Is Not a Place.’

Bishop Briggs

The evening’s mood took a heavier turn with the decidedly dark electropop of second support act Bishop Briggs. London-born but currently based in Los Angeles, Briggs takes her pseudonymous stage name from her family’s hometown of Bishopbriggs, Scotland. Her stage persona at first reminded me of Gwen Stefani, complete with girlish pigtails and sporty sneakers, but Briggs’ music packs a noticeably weightier punch. Her all-too-brief set was dense with forceful lyrics and deep bass grooves, and her cagey movements on stage were both energetic and decisively edgy.

Briggs is fairly new to the music scene, having only begun releasing songs last year, but a fair few punters in the crowd apparently already knew her first single ‘Wild Horses’. For me, the knockout blow came in the form of Briggs’ recent single and set closer ‘River’. Her live performance of the song was even more powerful than the recorded version below; watch for this track to become a radio hit in the very near future.


Headlining band Kaleo already have a handful of radio hits under their collective belt, at least here in America. Their debut album ‘A/B’ is the only established back catalogue they have to draw from for live shows, but that catalogue is packed with hit singles, including ‘All the Pretty Girls’, ‘Way Down We Go’ and ‘No Good’. All of these naturally found their way into Kaleo’s live set, along with a handful of as-yet-unreleased songs thrown in for variety and good measure.

JJ solo

Kaleo made a rather dramatic entrance to the stage, starting the set with their heartwrenching album closer ‘I Can’t Go On Without You’. Lead singer and songwriter JJ Julius Son was spotlighted early on, and his vocals were flawless from beginning to end, switching effortlessly from raw and raspy to sweet, finely-tuned falsetto. He quickly followed ‘I Can’t Go On Without You’ with another bittersweet ballad, ‘Save Yourself’, which you can view for yourself just below in a live performance from Iceland’s Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon.


From that point forward, Kaleo firmly established their rock ’n’ roll credentials with the hot and heavy blues number ‘Broken Bones’. It must be said here that the band’s absolute best live moments came in down-and-dirty guitar tracks such as these, which were plentiful and strategically placed in the setlist. The mid-set sequence of ‘Hot Blood’ and ‘No Good’ ratcheted up the intensity level in the room by factors of ten, though Kaleo would never quite regain those giddy heights.

For all their obvious talent, Kaleo were a bit stiff on stage, rarely engaging with their audience. Julius Son was remarkably serious and concentrated throughout the set, stopping to speak to the crowd only to introduce a song in the band’s native Icelandic, the hauntingly beautiful ‘Vor í Vaglaskógi’. Far be it from me to dictate anyone’s facial expressions, but I did think it might have been nice to see a smile on his face at some point. As for the rest of the band, they only really let loose during ‘Backdoor’, when bassist Daniel Kristjansson and lead guitarist Rubin Pollock came together for a brief jam in front of drummer David Antonsson’s kit.

jam photo

Despite their rather indistinctive demeanor, Kaleo played a tight and polished show, overall. They stuck to what they’re good at, and let it be said that they are indeed very, very good. They ended the night with a scorching version of ‘Way Down We Go’ before rocking out to close the set proper with ‘Ladies Man’. Their choice of encore played to their obvious blues rock strengths in the extended and appropriately-titled ‘Rock ’n’ Roller.’ If you haven’t had a listen to Kaleo yet, there’s no time like the present; the band will be on tour in America through the 12th of of this month before hitting the UK and Ireland for a short list of already sold out November live dates. A complete list of Kaleo’s upcoming live dates can be found on their official Facebook.

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