Go watch this (you won't regret it)
It was really great to finally see the 'Meltdown' concert (which begins around 12:00 into the show), where Magne first performed 'Never Sweeter' (starts around 21:45) and 'Past Perfect Future Tense' (starts around 35:40). The trumpet was such an amazing addition to Magne's songs, I really wish I could have a recorded version of them to enjoy with the benefit of a great sound system. And when I was collecting links and info for my site, it was also fun to re-read Monica's fan review on a-ha.com after all this time.
I remember being so surprised when I first read about 'Meltdown' back then, it seemed so unique and experimental, but these days I consider any remotely 'normal' solo concert from Magne as an aberration. I mean really, standing on a stage and playing guitar and singing? Where's the innovation there? ;-) I'm still waiting for the guy to find a way for the audience to participate directly at a show, in such a way that something entirely new and beautiful is created each time. Chainsaws optional.
This video clip also reminded me of going to see NPM at the Kennedy Center in December 2003, just after the WinterArts appearance was announced. He performed as part of the Norwegian Christmas in Washington, which I go to every year, and he was absolutely amazing. I wrote a blog about it at the time but it is long since archived under my previous user name. Here's an excerpt though:
I suppose some folks were a bit surprised by the music they heard, it was by no means 'mainstream', and unfortunately a number of people left in the middle of the performance. The thing is that as part of the Norwegian Christmas celebration, community members attended many of the events without being particularly knowledgeable or interested in them. So although it was sad that people didn't appreciate the performance, once they were gone it was almost like the audience breathed a sigh of relief - those of us who remained were absolutely entranced and we enjoyed it more without having others around us who were clearly not enjoying it. I have to admit it took me a while to get into it myself, but I am so glad I listened with an open mind.
There were instruments on stage I had no name for, the musicians were hunched over their instruments intently, the audience was reserved but clearly eager for it to begin. During the first song, there was an interesting reddish video backdrop that morphed through the progression of the song; during another song there was a moving sketch of a stage and lights, similar to the set we were looking at, which was cool. My favorite was a blue shape that went across the screen, beginning with a similarity to blue sky and moving clouds, and ending looking like the depths of the ocean. It was intriguing and guileless at the same time, so it diverted me when the music droned a bit.
And it did drone. A lot. But there were so many good elements that at first seemed tucked away, evolving and changing shape, that I finally figured out the drone was a necessary bridge. If you were to take all the bits that stood out for you, and tried to pull them together into one composition, you'd need these bridges. By the end of the show I was in a different mental place than when it started, and I am so glad I stuck it out.
I saw NPM again in June 2009, at the House of Sweden:
Next up was a trumpet player whose name I didn't catch, along with Jan Bang, who is fun to watch as he does his electronic - um - stuff. He groves to the music and has a look of concentration that is often brightened by smiles of accomplishment when he's completed some intricate series of - um - sounds and effects, all woven expertly together. As some points there were some vocals mixed in, which I had taken to be samples of some kind, and then discovered that it was the trumpet player singing with this pure, expressive voice (I didn't have a good view of him from where I was sitting so I just assumed he was playing the trumpet the whole time). Just wow.
That part took up an entire half hour, during which I don't think I moved once. As the arrangement neared its end, Nils Petter Molvaer and other performers on keyboard and guitar quietly took their places on stage, followed by a drummer, and they all began to play seamlessly with the first duo, who then faded out of the new musical tapestry as if they hadn't been there.
NPM was amazing as I expected, it was another 30 minute arrangement that was more intense than the first. I found myself quite stiff when it was over, from having been watching and listening so intently. In that regard it was not what I expected, but still I felt fortunate in a way to have been there. I just don't get the opportunity to be transfixed like that very often, usually music gets me completely pumped up and energized and this was the opposite - very introspective and absorbing energy from it, if that makes sense.
Sorry for the digression, it's possible I'll edit this out later on, but since Magne and NPM have collaborated a few times I thought a few impressions of his performances could be interesting to some MF fans.
Anyway, ever since I watched the video, I've had a nagging feeling that I needed to make a blog post and an update to the main site, so here it is. These were arguably Magne's first solo gigs - yes he was collaborating with NPM, so it's not solo in the usual sense, but it's completely separate from a-ha, unlike his performances of 'Dragonfly' during the Lifelines tour - so this bookends the Events page nicely. Just need to fill in the gaps now...one of these days ;-)