Mikhael Paskalev - Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

Written by Sam Murphy

Mikhael Paskalev - Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

For a man that had yet to release his debut album, it must have been a promising sign to see a packed room on the other side of the world enamoured by your barely-heard tunes. Norwegian newbie Mikahael Paskalev’s album has since seen its Australian release, but it was the strength of his ad-worthy debut single, I Spy, which pulled a formidable crowd into the Oxford Art Factory to watch his equally formidable antics on Wednesday.

Paskalev opened the show on his lonesome, cheerily chatting to the crowd about an ex-lover before launching into an acoustic-driven version of Susie. His band then joined him on stage to ramp up the tempo and deliver the crowd a punch of personality.

Once the tempo reached a steady cruise, the show became a rolling freight train. Paskalev thrusted his shoulders up and down, looking like a young Elvis Presley doing the Jailhouse Rock as he ferociously worked away at his guitar. At one point, he proclaimed that he had “never sweat this much in the first ten minutes of a show.”

It was obvious that many of the punters were there to see the performance of I Spy, but such was the strength of the unfamiliar songs that it never felt as though we were standing around waiting. Jailhouse Talk was an effortless ’60s throwback, while What’s Life Without Losers — the album’s title track — was an infectious slice of pop in the same vein as San Cisco. The former had Paskalev and his female counterpart singing along together, sending the crowd into a state of rapture.

Paskalev’s banter with the crowd was another highlight. When his acoustic guitar suffered technical issues he laughed it off and asked not to be remembered for this. He filled in time by throwing smokeless tobacco — Snus — into the sea of people. He then prefaced a track by dedicating it to “Rihanna and Chris Brown’s loving relationship.”

When the anticipation for I Spy hit fever pitch, the guitarist called a false alarm, introducing the song, only to have it dismissed by Paskalev. One song later it was finally delivered by a Paskalev who was, in spite of the the Risky Business-inspired video, wearing pants. The chorus was just as chaos-inducing as expected, with the raucous mosh confirming the brilliance of the pacing and melody of the track.

After jigging with every bone in his body for the duration of the evening, Paskalev returned for an uncharacteristically sombre encore. It was a good chance to listen to his husky, folk-tinged voice, which teetered gracefully on the edge of its own capabilities. Call it a comedown, but beyond the anarchy of his joyful pop tracks, it was a good reminder that the man has some serious talent.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Paskalev back in the country sooner, rather than later.

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