There was such a big crowd for BØRNS on the Santa Monica Pier on Thursday night, that I thought I would have to resign trying to get closer to the stage, and watch the concert from afar. BØRNS was performing a free concert on the pier, the second installation of the annual Twilight Concert Series, and the place, which had turned into a mini Coachella with giant multicolor balloons in the sky and snapchat booths, was packed to the max. They even closed the pier, which never happens, but did happen on that night, leaving a ton of people drooling of envy outside the limits of the concert area.
It may be a bit too easy to say that BØRNS is a born performer, but he truly has managed to be a true pop star in such a short amount of time, one single album propelled him in the charts, and all the girls on the pier were fighting for the first row. He appeared on stage wearing a large Japanese robe kimono, his long curly mane floating in the sea breeze, and he looked like an divine apparition in the cool marine air. At this instant, I realized there was a BØRNS phenomenon, there was something very rock star about this grand entrance, a Bowie-esque androgyny and the mystery which comes with it, producing a character difficult to resist to. If I were still in my 20’s, I would probably have fallen in love with him! When he removed his robe, his open shirt revealed a bare hair-free chest, and he looked like a Botticelli painting with his long hair floating in the sea breeze and his stare lost in the vague. When I got closer to the stage I realized even more how graceful his moves were with a delicious confusion of the genres, and what an out-of-this-world presence he had.
I knew very little about Garrett Borns (his real name) and his music, although I had certainly heard ‘Electric Love’ and ‘Past Lives’, but that was about it, and I hadn’t even made a connection between the songs and the singer, who decided to put a fantasy Ø in his real name, probably to make it sound more foreign and mysterious – BØRNS means children in Danish, and there is indeed something a bit innocent in the music. His ethereal voice, which went from sweet falsettos to youthful croons, was swimming over psych dreamy pop whose hooks sometimes seemed to have been borrowed from Taylor Swift (‘Seeing Stars’), Portugal. The Man (‘American Money’) or MGMT (‘Dopamine’)… it was electro pop at its best, light and airy, melting in your face like the veins-running-sweet-candy of his very catchy hit, Taylor Swift-endorsed single ‘Electric Love’, a song which made him almost an overnight success.
The crowd was in awe, singing along during many songs, while BØRNS was pleasing them with his diverse pop textures, and he knows a bit about pleasure, since he called his album ‘Dopamine’, the molecule floating between our synapses, bringing pleasure and happiness. And if not all the songs worked at the same level of ecstasy than ‘Electric Love’, emotion, love and catchy rhythms were a winning combination all night long. An 11-song album may not be enough to feel a whole night but BØRNS didn’t hesitate to wander into unexpected covers and in one night, he managed to cover the Smiths, Elton John, Arcade Fire and David Bowie,… embracing oldies as well as millennials anthems, who can say the same? At the same time, his music didn’t seem to belong to any generation but be rather influenced by different eras of music.
He kept the best for the end, hooking up ‘Past Lives’, ‘American Money’, ‘Electric Love’, in the last minutes, and as soon as the crowd heard the so-dreamy-you-want-to-melt intro of ‘Past Lives’, it was euphoria, but if the song evolves in a complete different direction than its shimmering hymn-like debut, it was soon the occasion for a giant beach ball party over electro dance beats, and BØRNS’ most sensual vocals of the night
After playing his ecstatic ‘Electric Love’, he disappeared and most people were already leaving, believing it was the end of the concert, which usually ends around 10 pm… it was my chance to get closer to the stage, and when I reached the front barricade, he came back on stage for an encore, and I got the chance to shoot some close ups… and realize what an ethereal beauty BØRNS is, a sort of angelic character and I am barely exaggerating. The vision becomes even more surreal when you realize he sings, during ‘Overnight Sensation’, ‘Immaculate creation/overnight sensation/God you really outbid yourself with this one’. However, lyrics were the last thing all these young girls were focusing on, and if I don’t use this term very often because it doesn’t really mean anything anymore but, intentionally or not, BØRNS had the most romantic persona I have seen for a long time. During the encore, he sang Arcade Fire’s ‘Rebellion’, followed by David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’, with the same bright charisma, and this was about perfect at so many levels, the crowd and I overdosed on dopamine.
Meanwhile, 6,000 miles away, people had just been slaughtered by a mad man in Nice, France, we had learnt about the tragedy on our way to the concert, and it was very hard to ignore despite the joy and exhilaration around. I will never understand why some people chose to fill the world with love and beauty while others chose to fill it with suffering, pain and ugliness.
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Bennie and the Jets (Elton John)
Rebellion (Arcade Fire)
Heroes (David Bowie)
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