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Morten Harket @ The Symphony Hall, Birmingham 14th May 2012

The Symphony Hall is a beautiful venue – with amazing sound. Therefore it is the brave that choose to play there – you need the vocals to deliver. And former a-ha frontman Morten Harket certainly has that.

Surprisingly Morten Harket has been singing live for nigh on 30 years. a-ha formed in ’82 – and disbanded in 2010 with over 40m album worldwide sales including 15 top ten singles in the UK alone. It was their iconic mid-eighties ‘Take On Me’ with the illustrated video which took the Norwegian band to stratospheric heights.  Harket dabbled with solo albums during their brief 90‘s hiatus, and one in 2008; tonight he’s here with his new post a-ha 2012 offering ‘Out of My Hands’, plus his previous solo work and a set that features the odd a-ha hit for the fans.

Support tonight comes from introspective indie Celtic folk group Song Dog, hailing from South Wales and Dundee. Putting poetry to music and ‘creating soundscapes’ their most recent release was “A Life Eroding’ in 2010 on indie label One Little Indian.

Bizarrely as we wait between acts, the PA system plays out dance and rave – The Prodigy and Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Bonkers’…..

And so to the main man, at 9pm on he comes, everyone immediately stands and claps – Harket looking unassumingly cool, in black shirt, jeans and shades. Harket: “Good evening… nice to see you….” and a couple from tracks from his new album ‘Burn Money Burn’ and ‘I’m the One.’

“Thank you so much…. been on stage for 25-30 years..” plus a reference to a-ha and we have thunderclaps and into the spine chingling Everley Brothers cover ‘Crying in the Rain.’ He acknowledge the time with a-ha and, as tonight will indeed feature smatterings of his former life, the fans vote on tracks that may not have been played as often as he would have liked. So we have a trio of tracks :’ Out of Blue Comes Green’, ‘Move to Memphis’ and ‘Forever Not Yours.’ Next up his older solo stuff “from that other century.”

He’s uber-cool on stage – an unassuming swagger, kinda shy but confident in his ability. With looks that good – it aint always easy to be a credible musician.  This is him, stripped bare of his band of thirty years, a new band, light rig and his voice. Brave. He’s quite chatty – and confident in his solo work. Joining him on stage tonight are drummer Karl Oluf Wennernerg, guitarist Dan Sundhordvik and keyboard and bass player Erik Ljunggren.

Then a snippet about how he and the other members of a-ha were given guitars as gift from Phil Everley and this track was the first one he wrote on the guitar he’s playing tonight –  ‘Los Angeles’. ‘A Kind of Christmas Card is his version of ‘Roxanne’ about a girl who travels abroad to become an actress and ends up a prostitute, and writes her story in a card.

‘We’re Looking for the Whales’  – the a-ha track which brought the band together all those years ago, as a reality that they could actually achieve something together. He dedicates it to Magne and Paul. Coupe of songs, quick break and we’re into the first encore – new album track ‘Scared of Heights’ (Espen Lind song) and two more a-ha – the high pitched ‘Stay on These Roads’ and the ‘give it some wellie’ track – ‘Foot of the Mountain.’

Another break and final encore – the acoustic ‘Lay Me Down Tonight’ and the hit that made a-ha and a thirty year career – ‘Take On Me.’ Surprisingly, this is no time warp – live, he hits ALL those incredibly high notes – and the night ends with a massive cheer and huge applause, raising the roof off the Symphony Hall.

Morten Harket was quite a surprise tonight. Many bands and acts are touring on nostalgia – but this gig wasn’t. This was a very enjoyable demonstration that shows the world that in an acoustically great venue he has one hell of a voice with a falsetto range beyond belief. And he is far more than just the good looking guy from a-ha. Forget ‘Take On Me’ – this is a Norwegian guy with a cracking voice. And without the pop boundaries it will be interesting to see where he chooses to explore in his own solo world – even thirty years into a career, there’s far more to come from Morten Harket yet. Tonights tickets were average price for the Symphony Hall – circa £35. Next time he’s in town take a look. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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Setlist:

  1. Burn Money Burn
  2. I’m The One
  3. Keep the Sun Away
  4. Crying in the Rain (Everley Brothers cover)
  5. Out of Blue Comes Green (A-Ha)
  6. Move to Memphis (A-Ha)
  7. Forever Not Yours (A-Ha)
  8. When I Reached the Moon
  9. Los Angeles
  10. Spanish Steps
  11. A Kind of Christmas Card
  12. We’re Looking for the Whales (A-Ha)
  13. Just Believe It
  14. Lightning

 

Encore I:

15. Scared of Heights (Espen Lund cover)

16. Stay on These Roads (A-Ha)

17. Foot of the Mountain (A-Ha)

 

Encore II:

18. Lay Me Down Tonight (Acoustic)

19. Take On Me (A-Ha)

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Solo albums:

Poetenes Evangelium [1993]

Wild Seed [1995]

Vogts Villa [1996]

Letter from Egypt [2008]

Out of my Hands [2012]