"Don’t worry, I’m Swedish." Tobias Froberg was learning the problems of playing with a laptop as backing band — namely if you flub an intro you have to restart the equipment. Which meant running around the amplifiers and such, over to his macbook.
It was early in his set — second song — but it could’ve been said at any point during the evening, a laid back, fun show featuring a couple Swedes and an American named Doug. Froberg was opening for old pal Peter Moren, who was taking a break from being in Peter, Bjorn & John to play some shows in support of his first solo album, The Last Tycoon, which Froberg plays on. Froberg was supporting his second album, Turn Heads, which Moren plays on. So not surprisingly they were both out there for each other’s sets. They’d just come straight from a European tour together, they played Dublin last night. But for the US dates, they’ve got Dirty on Purpose drummer Doug Marvin as a third — you might recall he played bongos for Peter Bjorn and John on some American dates last year.
Froberg not you typical Swedish indie rocker. His songs have more of a ’70s feel, more emotional, many being piano driven. "Just Behind a Brickwall" has an undeniable Elton John feel. But not cheesy. He seemed excited to be playing to a semi-full room, making jokes inbetween songs, mainly of the "Thank you America!" variety. He was good, even though he didn’t play "When the Night Turns Cold" off his first album which is my favorite.
Moren’s set was equally loosey-goosey. Though Doug — whose name sounds like "dog" when spoken with a Swedish accent — had played with Moren at Joe’s Pub for a couple shows a few months back, Moren and Froberg kept throwing him curve balls, but he’s a good musician and held his own, though when they put him on piano for one song, it was entertaining to watch him craning his neck to try and figure out what chords Moren was playing. He finally gave up and switched to tambourine.
Moren’s solo album is pretty different from the pop he writes for PB&J. The songs are more obtuse, less obviously hooky, the lyrics much more personal. But he was much more a showman here than I remembered him being at either of the shows with Bjorn and John I caught last year. He was a real Chatty Cathy, and a charming one at that, with lots of stories about his songs, from his time in mandatory military training ("Reel to Reel") and as a teacher ( "Social Competence"). There was also a string section for three songs. In addition to most of The Last Tycoon, we also got two PB&J songs ("Sunday Morning," "Goodbye, Again Or") and a couple covers: A Ha’s "Take on Me" (which had all the ladies in the crowd singing along) and Buddy Holly’s "Oh Boy." Everybody was clearly having a good time.
This was the first date on their tour, and I can only imagine it’s one that will be better at the end, when Moren and Froberg allow Marvin to get up to speed. Dates:
Apr 22 Middle East Upstairs, Boston, Massachusetts
Apr 23 Cabaret Musee Juste Pour Rire, Montreal, Quebec
Apr 24 464 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, Ontario
Apr 25 Wexner Center, Columbus, Ohio
Apr 26 Schubas Chicago, Illinois
Apr 28 Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver, British Columbia
Apr 29 The Triple Door, Seattle, Washington
Apr 30 Doug Fir Lounge, Portland, Oregon
May 1 Swedish American Hall, San Francisco, California
May 2 Hotel Café, Los Angeles, California
May 3 Troubador, Los Angeles, California