What does it take to win the Swedish equivalent of a Grammy? Apparently one hell of a haunting voice, a hint of sorrow and exquisitely written songs. Anna Ternheim brought all that and more to the Grog Shop last night during her opening spot for Loney Dear. The beautiful, leggy blonde started her set with spare renditions of “My Heart Still Beats For You” and “Let it Rain,” both her new album, Leaving on a Mayday.
She politely asked the sound guy to turn up the reverb on her mic, giving her voice an omnipresent ring that seeped through the room. After a couple songs, members of Loney Dear joined Ternheim osntage. On “What Have I Done,” an Asian-inspired synth hook weaved vibrantly beneath her hopeful chorus, bringing the room to life.
That’s when fellow Swedes Loney Dear took the stage, asking the crowd to step out of the dark shadows Ternheim had allowed them to revel in (“Being in the dark can be nice,” she said). “Airport Surroundings” was particularly bounce-inducing: Hyper guitar, manic tambourine shaking and bubbly backing vocals proved that Sweden isn’t all rainy days.
At times, Loney Dear’s set was overwhelming. The keyboards piled on dancey synths for the disco-ready tunes and set up the vocoder for frontman Emil Svanängen’s vocals. When loaded with percussion, busy guitars and sound effects, the elements couldn’t be reined into neat little boxes like they are on the records. But songs like “I Am John” and “Dear John” ended the set with a simpler, less fussy sound, made even more impressive with a final cathartic sing along.
Svanängen joked at one point, “If you want to look European, we have something for you. We’re selling T-shirts. Three are American and one’s European.” Like the show, it was a nice way for Cleveland to get a little taste of Sweden.—Danielle Sills