Kaleo – Handprint

This is the gig I’ve been waiting for,  the band I couldn’t wait to see live. I had already had to cancel seeing them last year due to prior arrangements and now nothing was going to get in my way of seeing the Icelandic quartet who boast a beautiful sound of folk, blue and rock.

The band was started by JJ Julius Son, David Antonsson and Daniel Kristjansson who were best friends at school. They soon added Rubin Pollock  and in 2012 Kaleo was formed. (After a bit of research Kaleo is hawaiian for the sound.)

Tuesday 31st January, Kaleo were continuing their Handprint tour across the UK and it was the turn of London O2 Forum in Kentish Town to be graced with their sound.

Once again my boyfriend was the lucky individual who I dragged along with me. He was fed and watered beforehand so don’t feel too sorry for him (and he very kindly paid for dinner too, what a sweetie 😘)!

The weather was miserable and the rain was continuous but armed with my umbrella and my man I was excited to get to the venue.

O2 Forum kentish Town is a perfect intimate venue. It isn’t too small nor too big yet anywhere you stand on the bottom floor you will have a good view as there’s different levels and also a bit of an upward slope.

We got priority entrance, allowing us to skip the queue and go straight in. But being British and loving queueing we were still lucky enough to queue for the cloakroom, where it was £3 an item!! Whilst in the queue the support band started. Straightaway you could hear why they were supporting Kaleo. Their sound was similar with a mix of indie rock and soulful blues. The four piece named Broken Witt Rebels created an atmosphere. Despite not hearing them before you couldn’t help but bop along to them. The charisma and charm of the lead singer was contagious and it was clear everyone was enjoying them.

Their set was 40 minutes long and their energy and passion was rife throughout. They were entertaining to watch and really warmed up the crowd. Their musical techniques were  incredible and their playing in different tuning on their guitars and bass was nothing I’d noted before.  I’ve already scouted them out on Spotify to listen to.

9pm and Kaleo appear after their roadie insisted on checking the mic a multitude of times. JJ Julius Son came on dressed in a smart blazer, a white sleeveless top and black trousers. He looked smart and quite the part of the lead singer. He started whistling as the rest of the band in strikingly floral patterned shirts, struck their instruments. The first song had started;  can’t go on without you. The crowd were singing and dancing straight away. I thought this was a sign of good things to come for the rest of their set.

Now for those of you who know Kaleo or for those of you that don’t, it is key to know that a lot of their songs are slow. I expected this and knew there wouldn’t be a lot of jumping around but I was hoping that JJ would interact with us and keep the atmosphere going.

Unfortunately he didn’t. I got the impression, and so did my boyfriend, that  in a good way he was very passionate about his music and concentrated on that but at the same time it also came across that he didn’t have much stage presence.

They worked their way through the songs, including the crowd favourites of automobile, a cover of bang, bang, way down we go and all the pretty girls. 

They sounded so much better live than on their recording and that was hard to beat. His vocals, the passion and love they all have for the music was evident. However, as previously mentioned their interaction was minimal.

It didn’t help that the crowd was a mix of people and ages. I got the gist that majority of people were there because the tickets were cheap and it was ideal for a week evening out and not because they were fans of Kaleo. They were drunk and rowdy and made me and others feel very uncomfortable and unable to enjoy the gig.

Me and the boyfriend persevered through the just over the hour set. It was nice as I got to have a dance with him but this to me became the only highlight of the gig.

Kaleo did get an encore and they did perform a rocky, upbeat song to close the gig. They were polite and thankful for us showing up and even suggested that they’ll be about next summer with a new tour or album.
I wanted so much to write such a good review and come back from that gig chomping at the bit to see them again live, but, unfortunately, I’m not. I’m not even sure I’m glad I saw them as I just really didn’t enjoy it. That may be because of the crowd or it might have been because of their lack of interaction but something just didn’t sit well with me. One thing I can confirm is that they are musicians. They can sing. They can play music. And they have a passion for it and that’s all you can ask of a band these days.

I hope I will see them again and I will have a completely different view but until then this gig won’t be going in my top 10 anytime soon.


JJ Julius Son playing Can’t go on without you



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