19 May 2012 (gig)
22 May 2012
For every man on the cusp of his 30’s there is the obvious potential for an emotional crisis – “What does it all mean?”, "Am I still cool?" being the obvious questions of course, along with a multitude of other searching questions, but, the sight of a 36-year old, Norwegian man, somewhat geek-chic in his appearance, effortlessly taking control of a room of gorgeous, youthful and adoring fans, that, seemingly are hanging on to his every lyric and joke provides a glimmer of hope for us all, and a reason to soldier on. Bernhoft’s music and performance sends out a message that is easily communicated: sing, dance and have some fun.
Already massively established in Norway, Bernhoft (first name, Jarle) is a multi-instrumentalist who already has a truly prolific catalogue of songs, and a voice that conquers the holy grail of soul by conjuring the silky and smooth vocal tones of Stevie Wonder. However, Bernhoft isn’t just a rehashing of the soul genre, or yet another conveyer-belt pop star rolled out for the masses to gobble up and regurgitate next year; he and his music offer something truly special, and his immensely enjoyable live shows are the icing on this musical cake.
Following his incredibly successful double-set at the Great Escape Festival in Brighton a week previous, Bernhoft’s show at Cargo in East London was surely the perfect occasion to build on his recent popularity explosion in the UK, and unsurprisingly, tickets were seriously sought after. Almost 30 minutes before his set, the room was jammed from wall to wall with people of all ages, and a real atmosphere started to build, but from the moment Bernhoft took to the stage it was clearly apparent that he was un-phased and was here to have some fun.
Working his way through a 90-minute set – something in itself that is relatively rare in recent times – it felt like bernhoft was delivering hit upon hit, and yet, most of the tracks he performed are new to UK audiences. His use of loop pedals and human beat boxing may initially stir very little interest amongst audiences due to its commonplace in the music of contemporary solo musicians. However, it is the way Bernhoft crafts his music with such tools that makes his show so interesting; where most musicians create a looping part, or riff that repeats as the foundation of a song, Bernhoft builds whole songs, with structures and breakdowns and bridges, and as a result the man has the command of a whole band, and sure enough, if you close your eyes that’s what it sounds like.
His set included the rhythmic and groovy “C’mon Talk” – somewhat surprisingly, reminiscent of Justin Timberlake in places, in a good way – the ridiculously catchy “Choices”, and the soul infused ballad of “Stay With Me.” Also in the mix was his anthemic cover of Tears For Fears’ “Shout”, which proved to be one of the highlights of the night, and a rendition of Happy Birthday for the singer’s mum, which had the besotted fans amongst us going weak at the knees, howling about how “cute he is!”
As a critic, dishing out a five star review should be a sacred thing, and shouldn’t be given out on whim of excitement, but when you witness something that is somewhat intangibly special it is important to make sure it receives the adulation it deserves. In the case of Bernhoft, his talented musicianship, gifted vocal range, ability to produce song after great song, and downright likeability make him worthy of such praise.