Sanders Bohlke: Mercury Lounge, New York, NY 02/13/2013

Sanders Bohlke took six years between his debut album and sophomore effort Ghost Boy, a record full of complex folk tracks showcasing Bohlke’s soulful voice. Currently on tour in support of Ghost Boy, Bohlke brought his ethereal (at times haunting) sound to New York’s Mercury Lounge on February 13, and took no more than six minutes to capture the attention and the hearts of the audience. Despite playing as an opener before an unfamiliar crowd, Bohlke owned his performance, captivating all in attendance and leaving them wanting more.

Taking the stage with his acoustic guitar and only one accompanying electric guitarist, Bohlke started the show with “Search and Destroy.” The longest song in his repertoire (it clocks in at just under eight minutes), the song’s simple acoustic melody paired with Bohlke’s calming yet powerful vocals served as a perfect introduction to his music. With a buzz running through the room, Bohlke settled in and confidently belted out the lyrics to the song, showcasing his impressive voice and securing the audience’s attention for the rest of his set.

Practically lulling the crowd into a state of trance, Bohlke utilized electronic effects from his guitarist to impeccably transition to title-track “Ghost Boy.” This performance of the first single from his new album immediately gave the show a sense of continuity and while demonstrating a musical maturity uncharacteristic of most openers. Throughout his performance of the pop-infused folk song, Bohlke threw in passionate vocal fills to account for the missing vocal layers present in the studio version of the song.

Bohlke went on to play seven additional songs, each compelling in its own way and illustrative of his potential as an artist. “Lights Explode” was upbeat and open, helping to showcase Bohlke’s strong lyrics, while “Fighter Pilot” featured heavily layered vocal melodies that, though repetitive, gave his performance depth. Bohlke rounded out the planned portion of the set with “The Weight of Us,” a song released exclusively as a single. The melancholy lyrics, “I’m not ready for the weight of us,” suggest a fear of love, while the final lines call for bravery and a joint strength. His emotional outro was met warm applause and shouts for “One more song!” to which Bohlke smiled and agreed to play one more. He ended his set with “Soldier,” a sorrowful and politically charged B-side that doubtlessly left many in the audience wondering what Bohlke could sound like with a full backing band.

Between the complexity of his music, meaningful lyrics, serene guitar style and Bon Iver-like voice, Bohlke truly demonstrates in a live setting why he deserves recognition. On this night, even as an opening act, the sheer emotion behind his songs captured the ears of a group of strangers and left them stupefied, shouting for more. Hopefully someday soon we will be able to see Bohlke with a full-backing band and an opener of his own.


1. Search and Destroy

2. Ghost Boy

3. The Loved Ones

4. Serious

5. Lights Explode

6. Pharaoh

7. Fighter Pilot
8. The Weight of Us
9. Soldier

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