Iceland native Kaleo’s polished rock soothes Center Stage in Atlanta

Kaleo // Photo by Andres Alvarado

Icelandic band Kaleo touched down in Atlanta to kick off their Handprint tour at a sold out Center Stage venue. Kaleo, led by lead vocalist JJ Julius Son, have amassed a great deal of fame and praise since their SXSW presentation in 2015. Formed in 2012, Kaleo played their first major gig at the Iceland Airwaves Music Festival and have not looked back since. Their music has been sampled in a number of popular shows in the United States – Blindspot, Orange is the New Black and HBO’s Vinyl to name a few. Signed to Atlantic Records in early 2015, the band now resides in Austin, Texas.

Also hailing from Austin, Texas, The Wind and The Wave kicks off the night at 7:30 p.m. as the opening act. The duo, consisting of Patricia Lynn Drew and Dwight A. Baker, set the tone with their folksy-rock anthems like “Grand Canyon” and “Happiness Is Not A Place.” Lead singer Patricia Lynn is charming and lively in her interactions with the crowd, while Baker plays it cool and lets his guitar do the talking for him. The crowd danced along to the duo’s energetic musical fanfare the entirety of their half hour set. If you’re wanting something new to check out, The Wind and The Wave are set to release their latest album “Happiness Is Not A Place” later this year on Island Records.

The second and final opening act was Sarah Grace McLaughlin. Known in the music industry by her pseudonym Bishop Briggs (so that she isn’t confused with a certain Canadian pop star), the 24 year old London native treated the crowd to her alternative meets pop-rock musical style. Decked in an old school Fila track jacket, Briggs owns her crowd by playing the part of her own hype man. Sporting a tenacious voice, her set included impressive tracks  “Wild Horses,” “Mercy” and the critically acclaimed “River.” Needless to say, while most of the crowd showed up for Kaleo, both opening acts did more than their fair share to warm up the crowd while gathering more fans of their own.

Photos by Andres Alvarado

At 9:30, Kaleo finally hit the stage to a vociferous crowd. The show commenced with the boy’s rendition of rock power ballad “I Can’t Go On Without You.” This track serves as a perfect showcase to highlight the supernatural voice of lead singer Julius Son. This rendition is followed by a few more power ballads in “Save Yourself” and “Broken Bones.”

Then, he switches gears and delights the crowd with the folksy “Automobile,” which tells the story of a whirlwind hitchhiking adventure through the continental 48. Half way through the song, the boys turn the mic on the crowd for a jovial sing along.

Kaleo showed off their versatility by playing tracks with a classic rock & roll vibe like “Hot Blood,” “Glass House” and the HBO Vinyl sampled “No Good.” Devoted fans join-in humming to “Vor í Vaglaskógi,” a track performed in Icelandic. However, the loudest cheers come courtesy of “Way Down We Go,” Kaleo’s saved their best known track for last, and it simply brought the house down. All in attendance stood and belted their best versions of the hit single.

After performing in Atlanta, Kaleo are moving up the east coast to perform in Charlotte, Washington and Philly. Do yourself a solid and catch their show or purchase a copy of their LP A/B – you won’t regret it.

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