“So who is Bernhoft anyway?”
That’s the question I shot my music junkie pal Sasha when I was offered tickets to check out Bernhoft. I was out of the loop. For whatever reason, the endless flow of music on the Internet never brought this bespectacled Norwegian dude to my digital shores. “You should go! His show is going to be great! Stop being an asshole!” was the response, and she was probably right.
Still, I neglected to do my homework even up to the point of heading out to the Troubadour. I had only heard him casually. No deep diving into the man’s discography, no real research into his background. I was unprepared, and honestly, that was the best decision I could’ve made.
Bernhoft is essentially a one-man maelstrom of musical ability. Pegging him as a singer is a little bit like calling Kanye West just a rapper. You’d be technically correct, but reductive. When I say he’s a maelstrom, I mean that he literally surrounds himself with instruments and creates entire songs out of thin air all by his lonesome.
Bernhoft’s not the first artist to do the whole self-sampling, of course. Beardyman comes to mind as someone who does something similar for a different effect. I even remember Imogen Heap doing live samples waaay back in 2006. Bernhoft’s take is more like the latter, but with even less electronic influence. He is a band in the most traditional sense. A great one at that.
The first song threw me for a loop because I had no real expectations. He came on stage with two guitars, a keyboard, a mic, and some effects pedals, and just went to work. His voice sounds a little like Adam Levine when he reaches into the upper ranges, but I don’t think confusing the two will ever be a problem. Where Maroon 5 makes music bound pretty heavily to the pop-rock formula, Bernhoft’s sound tends to look back in time, influenced by the decades of funk and soul and the blues. Songs like “Street Lights” have more in common with the music of Bilal and Raheem DeVaughn than any other “real” band. It’s crazy how good he sounds.
I definitely got the feeling that Bernhoft is a little crazy himself. This guy’s energy and crowd interaction is…unreal. Maybe it was just the close confines of the Troubadour and the active nature of his performance, but there were some real moments there. You know what I mean. Every now and then you’ll go to a show where the vibe between the musician and their crowd hits an emotional synchronization and it becomes electric. Describing that kind of feeling is difficult, but you know it when its there.
That the Troubadour is small and lends itself to a personal performance definitely helps, but I can’t understate the soulful nature of his music and how his vivacity as a performer made the night feel special. That is a rare feeling to come by.
I was impressed. Greatly so. You can see what he sounds like yourself on the record Solidarity Breaks. It’s actually been out since 2011, so I’m glad that it’s finally getting some recognition now. He mentioned while performing that he had just come off of a stint at the Arsenio Hall show too. On the strength of his live show alone, I’m glad that Bernhoft is getting more attention. The next time he comes by your town, make sure to try to catch his show live. If you like your music with some heart, you won’t regret it.
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