The Soundtrack of Our Lives
Irving Plaza, New York, February 16
by Eric Davidson

It’s a testament to our precision-hyped times that even a longtime fan of the Soundtrack of Our Lives like myself wondered aloud why they were in town, rather than just enjoying the fact. Their last album, Communion, came out, without much fanfare, more than a year ago. Rumors had them broken up, and the defiant, increasingly ’90s retro looks of the half-full Irving Plaza didn’t help the stumped vibe. Neither did the atrocious goth Janis Joplin opener, Nico Vega.

Bands just never seem to tour unless there’s some new record out, or at least a new downloadable EP. Or should I say American bands never do that. The Soundtrack of Our Lives are Swedish. And after a proud 20th century, it seems European bands, at least music-wise, have trumped us for work ethic. They’re still a fairly big deal in Europe, so they tour whenever the hell they want to tour—and why not? After 15 years, the six-piece proved their epic classic rock redux ages like wine, aided by the fact the band isn’t drinking as much of the stuff anymore.

Singer Ebbot Lundberg, while still the vestments-adorned shamen character, has actually taken a wee bit off his historic belly. The band kicks and stomps all over the stage, and as usual, their expansive musicianship flows out of their didjits as easily as the sweat dripping off. With Lundberg creeping in on harmonica and the band shuffling around at first, the band opened in the spacey, Pink Floyd-y manner of the majority of their last couple of records. But they soon kicked into the Stonesy “Flipside” and stately “Pictures of You,” both from the last album—and sounding meatier in person. By the time they bounded into the huge, horizon-aiming drive of “Bigtime,” they had their diehards swept up into hands-in-air rock show trascendence.

The majestic, marching, then monstrously loud “Mantra Slider” closed the set and hinted at the trio of very early classics they dished out on the encore, including the yearning waltz, “Instant Repeater ’99” and a surprising and sonically searing “Galaxy Gramophone” from their very first EP. Overall, Lundberg’s voice was actually stronger than the last time the band played the Big Apple nearly two years ago. The band was having a ball, and considering the stoned and swirly shift of the band’s sound over time, if you would’ve told me five years ago the band would still be playing in 2010, I wouldn’t have guessed they’d still have it in ’em. But they did.