Gig review: Lukas Graham at O2 Academy Leeds

Lukas Graham
Lukas Graham
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“I need you to sing with me, O2 Academy Leeds,” pronounces Lukas Forchhammer over the ebullient, crashing piano chords of Taking the World by Storm.

The first song hasn’t even got going properly yet, but the curly-topped vocalist who lends his name to the band Lukas Graham is already in animated form, stridently bouncing from one side of the stage to the other with a pendulum-like regularity.

He’s a peppy dynamo that never stops moving; a sparky presence that goes hand in hand with the sunny MOR pop they serve up, bereft of the Scandinavian noir found in, say, a-ha.

Superstars in their homeland of Denmark for half a decade, Lukas Graham’s international breakthrough is more recent in the memory; as such, this is their first visit to Yorkshire. Their effervescent, brassy sound is indebted to the British rock canon though; Don’t You Worry ’Bout Me leans on the neo-soul of Amy Winehouse none too gently, and the horn-flecked beat blues of Ordinary Things reads like a modern reincarnation of the Spencer Davis Group.

Yet Forchhammer and company – bassist Magnus Larsson, drummer Mark Falgren and keyboardist Morten Ristorp, complimented by a three-piece horn section – are compelling entertainers too, and refreshingly unfiltered; the frontman downs a bottle of lager mid-song during the jaunty Drunk in the Morning and swears up a storm before a poignant What Happened to Perfect.

He is aided by some fantastic vocal chops; though the material rarely calls for acrobatics, he nails every note with a slick ease. To further quicken the pulse of his female fans, he strips himself to the waist alongside Larsson roughly halfway through and his vocal on the RHCP-indebted Nice Guy is drowned out by lusty screams.

The hits are saved mostly for the home straight; the Hard Knock Life-sampling hip-hop of Mama Said, the rapid-fire handclap-hooks of Strip No More, the plaintive longing of Happy Home. When they return for an encore, it’s the jazzy Funeral that impresses, refreshingly old-school and nostalgic.

But anticipation has built to a crescendo for their closer; and when the twinkling into of mega hit 7 Years echoes forth, it sparks one last round of delirious swooning.

“We’re gonna come back to Leeds really soon, I promise!” hollers Forchhammer, body glistening under bright lights as he leads the bows. It seems unlikely that too many of his fans present will be adverse to a speedy return.

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