Norwegian singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche began his gig Friday night at the World Cafe Live with a technical flub on the opening line of "Ricochet."
The guitar-playing crooner had to take another crack at the winsome song, the first track on his self-titled sixth album, coming out Tuesday.
Maybe the pressure was getting to him. Even with his boyish, ridiculously chiseled Nordic good looks and easy, affable manner, the lithe native of Bergen, Norway, 28, still had to prove himself a competent, genuinely compelling performer with demonstrably impressive material.
Done and done. Among his other gifts, Lerche has a flexible voice that can shine brightly or wax melancholic with Rufus Wainwright-ian tartness.
Then there's his facility in plucking gorgeous jazzy chords from his Gretsch guitar to accentuate his catchy indie-pop.
Besides older numbers, Lerche confidently cruised through most of the new album Friday, offering an apology before the luminous new "Tied Up to the Tide," for playing unfamiliar tunes.
It was thoughtful if unnecessary; the large crowd, including many women whose upturned faces seemed positively aglow as they fixated on Lerche, was fine with whatever he wanted to try.
And the Norwegian's fine songs did sell themselves, often starting as moody, near-solo ruminations and somehow progressing to full-band rock-out climaxes.
His enthusiastic presentation was stoked by his backing band - particularly drummer David Heilman, who, after Lerche had encored with a swooning solo version of "Maybe You're Gone," slipped back onstage to join the guitarist for a raucous take on "Dead Passengers," off Lerche's 2002 debut album, Faces Down. The song evolved into a sustained drums/guitar avant-jazz-punk workout.
Lerche's bassist David Hartley - Fishtown's own, of Philly rockers The War on Drugs - also performed earlier with his Nightlands project. Highlight: a deft cover of Lindsey Buckingham's 1981 hit "Trouble."
Lerche's keyboardist/violinist Kaoru Ishibashi opened the night, performing as Kishi Bashi.