Gunhild Carling at Feinstein’s/54 Below– The Queen of Swing!
“What shall we do now?”
This joyful, playful refrain set the rhythm of the evening at Feinstein’s/ 54 Below for Gunhild Carling’s concert debut at the venue. With the look of a vintage pin-up, a nostalgic soul , and the optimistic patter of every indie’s best manic pixie dream girl, Gunhild Carling is absolutely singular.
After introducing her incredibly talented and diversely international circus of players (see also: her band), Gunhild introduced herself:
“And I am from Sweden…nobody’s perfect!”
We were all invited to Gunhild’s playground, and though sometimes we didn’t know the rules or what game was coming next, we were ALWAYS encouraged to play (or sing!) along.
Community is something that Carling and her troupe value very highly. They don’t just play music; they ARE music.
As the Queen of Swing, Gunhild Carling fuses standards, American songbook, jazz, pop, and yes… Viking War Music all in one set for an unpredictable, delightful celebration of song and revelry. And not without audience flattery, of course:
“Okay, we’ve discussed. You must be the best audience in… 7 years!”
Known for her work with Postmodern Jukebox, putting a twenties twist on eighties tunes like “Material Girl” and “Never Gonna Give You Up”, as well as a 15+ million times viewed video of her playing the bagpipes, Gunhild is like a living-breathing viral video; everything she does on stage inspires moments of either jawdropping disbelief, delighted confusion, or simply a whoosh of musical therapy.
A talented and award-winning MULTI-instrumentalist, Carling herself played the trumpet, trombone, flute recorder, 9th century bagpipe, upright bass, piano, and sang– all in about 75 minutes.
The bagpipe came out for an exploration of traditional Viking song: “usually, this is only used in war… you will soon see why.”
She and her band have a bit of shorthand going on throughout the show, visible only in little hand gestures, whispers, and then…
Before you know it, the entire band (upright bass included) are off the stage and parading through the perimeter of the venue, dancing and playing as if it’s the most expected thing in the world!
And that’s all BEFORE the tap shoes, jugglers, and musical chairs come out!
When she comes up for air, eyeliner dripping off her face (she doesn’t care), there’s still no “OFF switch”, as in between sips of water, Gunhild smirks and says, “You know, they said best in 7 years, but I think you are best in… 12 years!”
Though undoubtedly the star of the show, Carling is generous with her stage-time and breaks for band solos, musical challenges, and celebrations of the talents of her mates. (Plus, if there’s a lively and riveting drum solo, she just might have enough time to scurry off stage and slip into an even MORE sparkly dress).
In the crowd, we never knew what was coming next, and neither too did the band, but that seems to be exactly why everyone was grinning ear to ear. Having most fun of all? Carling herself.
And why wouldn’t she?!
We were the “best audience in TWENTY