Sondre Lerche has been at it for nearly two decades, spinning melodic confessional yarns across eight studio albums with his signature folk-rock-jazz-pop stylings and ever-clever wordplay. No stranger to invention, the Norwegian troubadour switched things up last year with Pleasure, a sonic reboot of 80’s flavored club-ready anthems and sweaty, wounded proclamations. Upon first listen, the disc seems to abandon the sly, nice-guy poetry fans have become accustomed to in favor of a more radio-friendly pop approach. But the electronic tricks and pulsing beats mask something surprising: some of the most insightful musings yet from the 35 year singer-songwriter; evident even moreso on this year’s Record Store Day exclusive release Solo Pleasure— an acoustic recreation of Pleasure‘s 10 songs. Up front and center are Lerche’s lyrics, his generous vocal delivery, and his virtuoso guitar– the results are a haunting depiction of love, loss, and messy redemption.
After touring extensively last year with a full band to support the studio versions of Pleasure tunes, Sondre Lerche is bringing the stripped down treatment to venues with the aptly billed An Evening of Solo Pleasure. Last Friday night, Schubas served as the perfect venue for this intimate, up close and personal set; the audience was seated in chairs, and held in rapt attention for 75 minutes by Lerche’s soothing pop balladry and charming, off the cuff anecdotes.
Amazingly, this wunderkind has been writing songs since high school, and these early compositions are among his most beloved. For this show, Lerche treated fans to a chronological trip through his discography, complete with personal insights into each song, and confessions about his relationship to the music as he matures and continues his storied career. Watching the artist grapple with and be moved by his own poetry from the past is an indescribable delight, and the perfect way to revisit this tremendous catalogue, or even meet these songs for the first time.
Lerche has always worn his heart on his sleeve, but 2014’s Please was laid especially bare. The disc saw the singer-songwriter detailing his divorce and the ensuing fallout in heartwrenching detail. With Pleasure, in contrast, fans were witness to Lerche’s rebirth of sorts, a bold reclamation of self in song. These numbers were particularly revealing during An Evening of Solo Pleasure, and made for some of the most emotional moments I’ve witnessed from the artist in concert.
For fans and new listeners alike, these solo shows offer a intimate glimpse into an artist’s catalogue, and an opportunity to chart an emotional life through song. We can expect some new music from Lerche soon, but for now he’ll be taking Solo Pleasure home to Norway for the summer. In the meantime, here’s a playlist recreating the Schuba’s setlist, for your pleasure, of course.