Dropping into LA in support of their fourth album Beyondless, Denmark’s Iceage brought a swelling musical catalog, stage presence, and ego to The Regent in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday night. Led by the swaggering moans of singer Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, Iceage ran through a 75-minute set pulling primarily from the new Nick Cave-inspired Beyondless.
Everything about the band seems to be getting bigger. They used to play 15 minute sets when they stormed onto the scene back in 2011, the shows a slobbering mess of guitar noise, alcohol, and Rønnenfelt’s barely audible moaning. In those days, their carelessness on-stage matched the feral energy in the pit. Fast-forward to 2018 and the set lengths have grown by nearly an hour, a violinist joins the band on-stage, the songs are twice as long but half as fast, and even the band’s iconic logo has swelled into a heavy bold font compared to the thin original lines. Today, Rønnenfelt roams the stage with the swagger of a younger, better-looking Nick Cave with his shirt half-unbuttoned.
The live show is cleaner now: all the instruments are audible and the additional violin adds a nice texture to their twisted guitars. The country-riffs of “The Lord’s Favorite” from Plowing Into the Field of Love came through in full fidelity. For the first time ever, I heard and understood the lyrics to Iceage’s tightly-wound mission statement New Brigade’s “White Rune.” But Iceage were not content to only plow the fields of their back catalogue, leaning heavily on Beyondless’s best songs including “Pain Killer,” “Hurrah,” “The day the music dies,” and the lead-single “Catch it.”
It’s an open question and I am sure fans come down on all sides about the progression of Iceage’s sound. Is matching Rønnenfelt’s slow-moaning vocals with a similar rock-stomp the best way forward? Or will the band return to the manic energy of their early releases? Is it simply the traditional transition from youth to adulthood—when all things seem to slow down?