Mixed Bags & Bonus Balls. Jaakko Eino Kalevi, The Lexington.

Mixed Bags & Bonus Balls. Jaakko Eino Kalevi, The Lexington.

If comparisons between Helsinki eccentric-cum-part-time tram driver Jaakko Eino Kalevi and Ariel Pink have been perhaps derogatorily rife online, then live, the Finn may be more readily likened to a Nordic take on the ever-debonair Bryan Ferry. From his warble to the woollen blazer that hangs from his geometric frame; his vacant, if still active expression to the fact that saxophonist Jorja Chalmers has repeatedly played with the Roxy Music man himself, the comparisons are both profuse and explicit. Yet whereas Ferry is something of a born performer, Kalevi is reticent by contrast. He’ll thank us for listening come the show’s conclusion, although otherwise remains tight-lipped throughout. During, meanwhile, as might a fine piece of Finnish couture, he nonchalantly absorbs a hushed applause at moments, before withdrawing himself from the growing approval in order to turn to face the wall once again.

In truth, with the drums that propel everything from a woozy Night at the Field to a modular take on breakout track No End about as subtle as the slapping of a brick one, there’s a rawness to the performance that, at times, is all too rough. So much so to the extent that it’s seemingly not yet ready – Kalevi has been performing as a five-piece back home in his native Scandinavia, although stripped back to his preferred version (an albeit unorthodox trio), the sound can be found lacking. Memories, with its Wacko twitch, may be made better by its bewitching lyrics of spells and so forth, but it proves only too redolent of Billie Jean scrawled in Haunted Graffiti across a reprehensibly lopsided stave. Similarly, Hush Down feels almost perniciously derivative, commingling as it does the pristine sheen of Neon Neon’s I Lust U with the staccato jib of Eleanor Rigby. His drummer’s aviators gradually lower like Tom Cruise’s F-14 Tomcat, and occasionally Kalevi threatens to crash and burn. And with his wily baritone – that which most closely associates he and a certain Rosenberg – then hauled to the fore for When You Walk Through Them All, the song again combining Jackson beats with Roxy synths, it can prove a tricky listen. Kalevi, towering although rarely imposing, diffidently stands lifeless with a hand in his left pocket.

But this succinct 8-song setlist isn’t without its heady merits, and during Bum, Jaakko et al. exhibit all the guile of a Helsinki Metronomy, the Antipodean Chalmers’ soprano saxophone imbuing the song with an ineffably mesmeric kind of charm. She returns to it of another, that which scopes out the most previously uncharted sonic territories, to mark a wickedly climactic finale reminiscent of Black Devil Disco Club, had Bernard Fevre been reared on psych, in place of synths. All of which suggests that, while still something of a mixed bag at present, Kalevi is cut from such urbane cloth that there are certainly some bonus balls yet to be played…

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