by Matt Juniper
It’s been a good year for Sweden’s The Royal Concept. The four-piece went from relative obscurity outside of their native country to a global release of their debut EP on a major label and a North American tour with British rising stars Wolf Gang. The band was even given a shout out on Perez Hilton’s website, which is probably equally amazing and unsettling for the band.
Early critical reception has been largely positive, though a common recurring theme is a comparison to popular French indie pop outfit Phoenix. A listen to single and EP-opener Gimme Twice does little to dispel this notion, with the two bands sounding remarkably similar in style right down to the vocal texture. The remainder of the EP, however, shows more diversity and potential. Closing tracks D-D-Dance and In the End are a sugar-coated pop song and a downbeat synth rocker respectively and hint that the band is capable of more than a mention in the ‘sounds like’ column of their predecessors.
Eager to further explore the band’s potential, I caught their Toronto stop with Wolf Gang this week at Wrongbar. As lead singer David Larson was sure to point out several times throughout their set, this was the band’s first time in Toronto (or Canada at all) and they were plenty excited to be here. The crowd was relatively small, even by Wrongbar’s standards, but made up for it with enough enthusiasm to fill the largest of venues. A small crowd at the front had clearly familiarized themselves with the band’s material and gleefully belted out the choruses of each song in the band’s set. Beyond them, the larger crowd (likely awaiting Wolf Gang’s set) was incredibly appreciative and within a few minutes of set’s debut, there were few people left sitting still in the venue.
The band played a mix of songs from their EP and unreleased material, but the common theme was that it was all incredibly accessible and immediately so. Rarely do you see a band at this stage in its infancy make such an impact. While I can’t say that I had any deeper insight in to the band’s future songwriting potential, I can certainly say that they are a can’t-miss live act. By the time the Royal Concept had finished their brief set, I think many felt satisfied that they had already gotten their money’s worth for the evening before Wolf Gang even took the stage.
Wolf Gang had recently landed a gig opening for Keane on their November U.K. tour and recently wrapped up a tour opening for Coldplay. In addition to signifying that the band is teetering on the edge of a global breakthrough, the choice of tour mates also speaks to this band’s aesthetic. Lead vocalist and mastermind Max McElligott has a presence and vocal ability that could easily fill a stadium and the band’s sound is so grand that it was almost overwhelming in such a small space. The performance and sound struck me as a more conventional relative of Brooklyn superstars The National, with McElligott’s simultaneously timid and aggressive stage presence reminding me of Matt Berninger in his earlier days. It was a charming set that was kept short and sweet and featured the debut of three new songs in addition with a solid rotation of material from popular 2011 debut album ‘Suego Faults’.
Regardless of personal tastes surrounding either act’s brand of music, it was hard to deny that each group came off as incredibly polished and primed for the big time. It would be even more difficult to deny that the future is incredibly bright for these bands and that next time they play on North American soil it will be a much bigger challenge to land tickets.