Of course, everyone knows of the world famous Peter Morén of Sweden’s Peter, Bjorn, and John but what they don’t know is that he may just be the main man behind all those glorious pop songs and, if isolated from his other two bandmates, he has the capability to put on a swell show full of not only his own songs but songs from PB&J and fun covers to boot. He’s clearly not going to disappoint anyone who sees him on this tour.
The night began with Tobias Fröberg, a fellow musician friend of Peter’s who is also from Sweden. Tobias is a songwriter and, like Jens Lekman, can be a little melancholy at times but the songs are a little less meandering than some of my favorites of Lekman’s and they have a certain sensibility to them that may be why he (as he explained) ended up “selling out in Sweden” by allowing one of them to be played in a Panasonic commercial. Tobias had a rich sense of humor and was rather engaging but the songs really come off better when played on his record Turn Heads than when he’s singing them solo. This was a stripped down more personal affair that would have been great except I longed for the layers he creates when he records. That said, the best part of his set was when Peter and Doug Marvin from Dirty on Purpose filled in some of the missing sounds. (Peter played guitar while Marvin played drums)
After Tobias’s set, the three took a short break and ,when they returned, switched to Peter on lead vocals playing his solo stuff and PB&J songs. The best by far of his set was “The Object of My Affection” and I can’t help but choke right up when I hear the lyrics, “I laugh more often now. I cry more often now. I am more me.” Peter played for at least an hour but he often complained about having a curfew for the show and how he liked to play three hour sets whereas bandmate Björn Yttling liked to play for only thirty minutes. Though the time passed quickly, I’d say it was a happy medium between the two extremes and he finished it off well with a few very amusing covers, including A-Ha’s “Take on Me” and Richard Hell’s “Time.”
I could talk more about every song in the setlist (none written down that I saw unfortunately) but I think I’ll wrap up talking about the music component by saying that I had seen the double Empty Bottle show of Peter, Bjorn, and John about a year ago and wasn’t all that impressed (though the later show was greatly superior to the earlier.) This time around, Peter proved he has his act together and wasn’t as sloppy. The songs themselves just seem to come alive more and come across as the engaging gems they truly are so this was really a treat.
But actually, what I really wanted to talk about was Peter’s stage banter so indulge me if you will and keep reading. I think when you really love someone’s music, it’s natural to want to know more about that person as an actual human being. Schubas is, of course, the perfect intimate setting for this naturally. However, I have seen some singers at Schubas that just didn’t really open up and divulge any more than the bare minimum. It could have been that Peter was in an especially chatty mood but he talked more than I can remember him doing at the Empty Bottle shows, which is what really made the whole thing special for me. I wanted to take a minute for those who love the music to relay some of that.
First, perhaps you’ll be relieved as I am to know that Peter Morén is a pacifist. That isn’t completely shocking of course but he told us the story of having to fake a hearing test for the Swedish army and also having a psychologist. In a very Arlo Guthrie fashion (though he didn’t start singing or insist he wanted to kill), he acted depressed, looked at the floor, said he’d had difficulty with a girl and (now this is where it gets interesting) talked about his reoccurring nightmares about Hitler. This, of course, made him exempt from serving in the Swedish army.
He also spoke about being a music teacher and the awkwardness that comes with teaching young students how to all play the same notes at the same time. In addition, he expressed the difficulty of growing up and going through being a teenager as a boy and having to deal with all the grossness that comes with it…which ended up just coming off as really sweet and honest to me. Overall, what I really learned from it is that Peter Morén is a rather charming fellow but that he doesn’t seem to be setting out to be this way. I came prepared for a little arrogance, to be honest, considering the success of PB&J and what I found most of all was sincerity. That’s a nice thing to know for the next time you pop in Writer’s Block.