The Sounds – Live @ Theatre of the Living Arts

The Sounds
@ Theatre of the Living Arts
September 19, 2009

Dripping in bling, Maja Ivarsson stalks across the stage of the TLA like a cross between a majorette and Flavor Flav. Spouting sentiments like “I’ve been doing someone that you know” and “Let’s do it real good” from atop mile-high legs in designer kicks, she is a brilliant conundrum: both elegantly crass and decadently glamorous. Ivarsson would be the quintessential 21st century Varga Girl. But there’s more to Ivarsson than her pin-up-ability, she also fronts the best New Wave band since New Wave was new.

The last time The Sounds were on a Philthy stage, they were putting on the most fabulous Thanksgiving day celebration the city is ever likely to see. This time… the best reason the city’s had to dance since. Although the group has surely tamed themselves (Ivarsson is no longer flinging herself into the audience in the tradition of Courtney Love), they certainly have nothing to apologize for.

The band no longer resembles a synthesizer-fueled teenage riot or a playfully offensive exercise in sass, but a band sincerely dedicated to the art of crafting pop songs (for better or worse). The audience ranged from post-tweens in scenester-training to sorority pledges and middle-aged people who regularly partake in activities they refer to as “culture.” While none of this makes for performances as sexily edgy as they have been previously known for, it’s still likely the best performance to hit the States’ major stages this year.

It wasn’t the songs from their latest (Crossing the Rubicon) that provided the evening’s most brilliant moments, but those from their more delightfully juvenile releases (2003’s Living in America and 2006’s Dying to Say This to You). Their brassiest work (“Living in America” and “Hit Me!”) hadn’t lost any potency due to the band’s newfound maturity and dancethems like “Queen of Apology,” “Song with a Mission,” and “Painted By Numbers” could’ve roused a pep rally at even the hippest locale. The biggest impact, however, came from the softer side of these sassy Swedes. The evening’s highlight was a strictly piano and vocal rendition of “Night After Night” (which should from here on out, be known as “The ‘Beth’ of New Wave”), followed closely by an ode to the beauty of possibly the world’s most beautiful creation, “Rock ‘N Roll,” of which Ivarsson once proclaimed “This is The Sounds’ only love song.” – Izzy Cihak