A band from Denmark called Choir of Young Believers made one of my favorite records this year, This Is for the White in Your Eyes, and the group’s music sounded just as sublime in concert the other night (Oct. 26) at Schubas. The leader of this Choir, Jannis Noya Makrigiannis, sang beautiful melodies that put most rock tunesmiths to shame. Markigiannis knows how to write (and sing) a melody that makes dramatic leaps rather than sticking with less imaginative notes.
For all intents and purposes, Markigiannis is Choir of Young Believers, but he had a solid backup group (bass, drums and cello) that did an excellent job of playing live arrangements similar to the studio recordings. I’ve had trouble putting my finger on exactly what Choir reminds me of. The Ghostly International label’s Web site compares Choir’s music with classic pop music such as Roy Orbison. I can see that — the music Markigiannis is making with Choir feels like a Scandinavian take on the epic, quasi-orchestral pop music of Phil Spector — but there’s also something about it that reminds me of indie artists from the 1980s, and I hear similarities to other Scandinavian artists such as Loney Dear.
Performing the final show of Choir’s U.S. tour Monday night at Schubas, Markigiannis hit all the high notes. At the end of the main set, he even let loose on guitar, flailing around with charged energy. He returned without his backup band for one solo song during the encore — a cover of the Swedish band First Floor Power’s song “Goddamn Your Finger.” (Choir’s cover of the song appears on the various artists collection Saluting the Crunchy-Frog-a-logue.
Alas, Schubas was not nearly as crowded as it should have been for this show, although the folks who did show up clearly liked what they heard. Monday nights are always a tough night to draw a crowd, and on this Monday, these Danes were competing with a few other high-profile indie-rock shows in Chicago. The Schubas show also featured opening acts Chris Bathgate (doing some nice roots-rock with trumpet and trombone accents) and Brazil’s MoMo (whom I recently saw at the Chicago World Music Festival). It was a motley but interesting mix of musical styles.