Lukas Graham is a name that has been sweeping the nation since the track “7 years” was released back in 2015. I distinctly remember being extremely taken when first hearing the song — it was one of those tracks where you could feel the heart and soul that resonated within the lyrics. It was unlike any song, and a complete breath of fresh air. But perhaps one of my deepest impressions of this song is when my mom heard it on the radio for the first time. Being from Asia, she doesn’t usually care for songs in English — the radio would be playing during a car ride but she would pay no attention. When the beginning notes started, I saw her grow quiet and actually listen to the song. At its conclusion, she just looked at me and said, “Huh. I like that song.” For an English track, this was VERY high praise. I simply smiled back and said, “I do too.”
I had the privilege of seeing Lukas Graham in concert, and I was so excited. For those of you who don’t know, Lukas Graham is a Danish band composed of Lukas, Mark Falgren on drums, Magnus Larsson on the guitar, and Morten Ristorp on the keys. After watching the band crush their performance at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards, I had high expectations for the show, and boy, I was not disappointed. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The show took place on January 16th, at The Pageant in St. Louis. For those of you who haven’t been before, I think that the Pageant is just an awesome venue. It’s just big enough to have a variety of sitting or standing options, but also small enough to create a sense of intimacy for any show. The stage is raised up much higher than normal comparative to other venues, which takes some getting used to if you’ve never been there, but it guarantees that you can see the stage from any point in the room, which is an amazing thing, especially if you’re a short girl like me. People streamed in the venue until it was nearly full, and then we waited in anticipation. Throwback hits played through the speakers, while the chatter of the audience floated around the room, just waiting for 8 p.m. to come. About 5 minutes prior, the stage starts to fog up, and you can feel the shift in energy as the anticipation becomes tangible. The opener, Hein Cooper, walks onto the stage, and immediately grasps everyone’s attention — a teenage boy shrieks in excitement right next to me, and I swear, I’ve never heard anyone so happy to see a person walk on stage.
It seemed like most people weren’t very familiar with the opening act, so no one really knew what to expect. Hein Cooper is a one man show from Australia, and he surely didn’t disappoint. His first song was a combination of guitar, mixed in with synth vibes, and it created a sultry sound. With the blue lights of the stage illuminating his presence, while the fog from the fog machines filled the stage, the effect was absolutely hypnotic. Through the course of a single song, he had captured the hearts of the audience. He introduces himself, saying it was his first time ever in the city of St. Louis, and the ladies in the crowd are going absolutely wild every time he speaks. Next, he performs his song “The Fear of Missing Out.” The lights turn red, and the audience starts clapping to the beat of the track. Cooper flashes a charming smile at the audience as he sings, “and when it’s good it’s good, and when it’s bad it’s bad,” and truer words have never been spoken. Afterwards, he talks more about how they arrived to the city yesterday, and had “fucking delicious Italian food.” Murmurs run through the audience as they speculate where Hein Cooper was referring to. He also explains that he med Lukas Graham in Montreal spontaneously, before jumping into his last few songs. He’s grooving on stage, and the audience starts to dance as well. His voice is commanding the floor, and his falsetto is effortless, and you can just tell that he’s having the time of his life on stage, and we’re right there next to him.
After Hein leaves the stage, the audience settles back down as we all patiently wait for the main event of the night. A diverse mix of background music plays through the speakers, and I’m so into it, especially when “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” comes on, and everyone starts singing on the top of their lungs, complete with Mariah Carey hand motions when hitting the high note. Everyone’s having a blast, and there’s no longer a bogged down vibe while waiting for Lukas — everyone’s energy is back to 100% when the key change hits. After the song, the crowd gets antsy again. As I look around, there’s one thing that sticks out to me, and that’s the age range that is at this show. There are teenagers, adults, families with small children, and even seniors in the crowd, I have never been to a show with such a wide age demographic, and seeing this truly warmed my heart. I love this show already. It’s 8:55 and the crowd starts chanting — “LUKAS! LUKAS! LUKAS!” and on command, the band takes the stage.
Lukas launches straight into a monologue about his mama and everyone is still screaming at the top of their lungs, as they hop into “Take the World By Storm.” The energy is absolutely electric as the audience’s phones raise to record these first moments. There’s a guitarist rocking a Hawaiian shirt, a keyboardist, and a drummer on stage, as well as a 3 person horn section accompanying Lukas. The lights switch from color to color, illuminating the stage in a rainbow array of hues. “My god ladies and gentlemen!” Lukas says after the first songs and the audience is absolutely losing their minds and screaming louder than I thought was possible. “Drunk in the Morning” is next. It’s a feel good tune and the audience can’t help but sway to this contagious tune. Lukas takes off his sweatshirt, and I hear an audience member just sigh very loudly, saying, “this gets me every time!” After the song, Lukas jumps into a rant how you can never really see the whole arch at a time. Like, you see a third, or two thirds of it, or three fourths of it, but never the whole thing when you’re just driving around. He continues to talk about being from the smallest country, but hey, they had vikings!
He brings up Magnus (the guitarist) to the front, and introduces his guitar as Jeana. They tell the story of how Jeana’s an old gal, and loves to be played by everyone, which can make Magnus jealous at times. After some good natured laughter from both ends, the band performs a song that hasn’t been released in the states yet, and invites the audience to sing along, and before you know it, we’re all scream-singing “HEYYYO SHE WANTS SOME” at the top of our lungs, louder and louder until the very end. After some unintelligible words were exchanged at the front part of the audience, Lukas tells us that apparently, it’s someone in the front’s birthday, and they’re turning 18! He then proceeds to rant about how weird how they’ll still have three more years before they’re real adults. He tells about how weird it was for him, being a person with full adult privileges and then coming to the states, and all of a sudden, he’s a teen again. “We start drinking before driving,” he tells us. “We drive better here, but we drink better where I’m from.” The audience laughs. I mean, we can’t disagree.
This rant somehow turns to the subject of swearing. According to Graham, American swear words are so “exotic,” but a touchy subject for many. Someone yells, “birthday bitch!” from the audience and Graham simply says, “yes, birthday female dog.” The audience cracks up, and is still laughing as they start their next song, “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout Me.” The room settles down to a mellow vibe to match the song, and everyone sings along. The stage lights are a cool blue hue, as the saxophone solo rings out, and everyone goes wild. At the end, the stage goes blackout, with a single smokey spotlight on Lukas. The mood becomes a somber one, as the beginning notes of “What Happened to Perfect” begin. Flashlights turn on as everyone holds their phones in the air, swinging back and forth. The song transitions perfectly to “Criminal Mind Pt. 1” as Graham explains how this is a homage to his boys back home, and how some of his best friends are in jail and he wishes they could be here with him, but instead has to settle with sending them newspaper clippings of events. “Criminal Mind Pt. 1” transitions seamlessly into “Better Than Yourself (Criminal Mind Pt. 2)”. Everyone is singing their hearts out, and the heartbreak in the room is tangible. The somber mood continues as Graham talks about losing his dad, and how this part of his life is a real catch 22 because he writes songs that are interesting and about his life, and how he would of course rather his father still be alive, but without his father’s death, he wouldn’t have been able to write the songs that he has written. He says that the next song is about how much he messes his father, and tells us how his daughter is sleeping on the tourbus at the moment.
The band performs “You’re Not There,” and everyone feels the music within their souls. The band performs “You’re Not There,” and everyone feels the music within their souls. From there, the mood lightens and we return to fun-loving, happy music as the ban plays “Only One,” and “Mama Said.” Lukas tells us that he had dropped out of law school and his mom wasn’t too happy about that, and now that he’s nominated for 3 Grammys, if he wins one, he’ll put it in his Mom’s house so she’ll be proud of him. He tells us that St. Louis was actually one of the first American cities that he wanted to visit, and the movie “Meet me in St. Louis” was the sole reason. His family watched that movie when he was 7, and he loved it. He tells us that it’s hard to be a family man on tour, so he brought his family on tour with him because he wants to be a present father and wants to be there for every step of his daughter’s life, whether it’s teaching her how to swim or to ride a bike. In this moment, I really don’t think I could’ve become a bigger fan of this guy. The band launches into “Happy Home,” and then exit the stage. The lights go off, and it’s over.
Except, it’s not over, and everyone knows it because they still hadn’t played two of their most popular hits, so we all know they’re coming back. There was not a doubt in the audience’s mind. But nonetheless, we start chanting for the band to come back anyways, and sure enough, Lukas comes back with alcohol in hand, and sits as he recites a poem to us. He says that a common question he gets back home is, “What’s the weirdest thing when you go to America?” His response? “People actually show up.” We all laugh of course, and when Graham asks if he can do an encore, the audience screams at the top of their lungs with excitement. The lights dim as he asks, “Will you be my gospel choir, ladies and gentlemen?” and “Funeral” begins. The rest of the band comes on. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, sings along flawlessly, and the whole room is one. Then the beginning notes of “7 Years” play, and the synchronicity of everyone’s voice continues. With all the stories and personal anecdotes Graham had shared that night, I listened to this song with a new perspective and deeper understanding of the lyrics, and I had never loved a song more. “Ladies and gentlemen, we are Lukas Graham. Thank you so much for coming out and playing with us tonight!” It is 10:13 pm, and with one final bow, they exit the stage.
This show will forever be in my mind as the most honest and genuine performance I’ve ever seen. Thank you for sharing a piece of your life and bearing a piece of your soul to us, your audience. Thank you for making us feel more emotions than I ever thought would be possible at a concert. And lastly, thank you, Lukas Graham, a million times over, for the phenomenal humans that you are.
Keep up with the band here.