Review, photos: Kaleo owns the stage at the Masonic


Photos: Alessio Neri

SAN FRANCISCO — Kaleo played an electric set Thursday at the Masonic to kick off several California dates, culminating in appearances at Coachella.

During an hour-long set, the Icelandic blues rock band played mostly tunes off 2016 album A/B. After opening with love ballad “Save Yourself,” which highlighted singer JJ Julius Son’s unique vocals, the band followed directly with “Hot Blood” and  “Glass House,” which are both up-tempo anthems that showcase the rock facet of Kaleo. The one-two punch was a momentum generator for the rest of the performance

Kaleo simply knows how to own the stage. During every song, the band interacted with the audience: From energetically engaging the crowd to self-deprecatingly poking fun of himself after messing up on a guitar solo, Julius Son and his bandmates owned every moment. Each band member, including David Antonsson, Daniel Kristjansson and Rubin Pollock, knew when to give each other room to shine, break away and improvise.

The highlight of the night came when the band took time to let the setlist breathe, transitioning from, “No Good” to a cover of Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down).”

Julius Son said little throughout the night, letting the songs speak for him and the band. (There was no encore break, either).  Kaleo’s goal was just to display an emerging but electric songbook  steeped in modern day blues and rooted in traditional rock. The band’s razor-sharp production made every guitar strum and chord progression feel precise, if not lacking the powerful delivery of the album’s recorded version.

The group saved “Way Down We Go” for the back end of the set. Its sorrowful tone, slower pace and achingly good vocals set it apart from the band’s more upbeat material. It was the perfect finale and come-down for attendees.

— Alex Martinet

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