Review: “Something Happens in Nashville,” Lukas Graham Says at Magical Ryman Show

Photo by Annie Dineen

“I’m not good at lying,” Lukas Graham’s frontman Lukas Forchhammer told the crowd in May of last year, when he played his first ever Nashville show at 3rd & Lindsley. “This is the best show we’ve played.”

It was a sentiment Forchhammer echoed again at the Ryman Auditorium last night, noting that the 3rd & Lindsley show was the best on that US tour run. “Something happens in Nashville,” he said. “We might just come back and live here, who knows.”

Something indeed was in the air at the Ryman, from the immensely danceable notes from the three-piece horn section to the haze that settled up among the lights and may have been the cause of the fire alarm that went off midway through the set. Throughout the set, Forchhammer and his band were a pillar of high energy and strong musicianship paired with a low-key attitude. “What do you call the debut album?” he jokes after referencing the title of their worldwide debut, Lukas Graham. “This is our first attempt at worldwide fame?” He retracts the word fame almost immediately in favor of “success” – fame isn’t much of a goal for the artist, who years ago achieved ubiquity in Denmark and has been public about his preference for a beer with friends than bottle service with the elite. “That’s not to say I haven’t done that, because I have,” he says in a statement. “I maxed out my credit cards, and I was stupid with the money that followed the fame. I was lucky to quickly realize that wasn’t the goal.”

Photo by Sam Sanders

The goal, it seems, is making music with good friends, a camaraderie that was on strong display when they took the stage Sunday night for a set of global hits and unreleased jams. Midway through the show, Forchhammer and bassist Magnús “Magnúm” Larsson take to opposite sides of the stage and collide in the middle for a triumphant chest bump. “I’ve played with this guy for 11 years and every night he makes me feel like a goddamn amateur,” Forchhammer says at one point of drummer Mark “Lovestick” Falgren. After a much-clamored-for return to the stage for an encore, Forchhammer, Magnúm, and Lovestick sat at the foot of a riser with the nonchalance of a group of guys just hanging out. They had a bet, they shared, on whether or not they could get an audience to be completely silent before they play the multi-Grammy-nominated “7 Years.” They could.

The casual quality is both a given and a non-focus for Lukas Graham, whose performance, much-amplified by the presence of the horn section known as the Rusty Trombones, was musically tight. Forchhammer, whose vocals sounded excellent to the audience, seated in pews below the stained glass windows of the Ryman, began his career (at age eight) as a vocalist in the Copenhagen Boys’ Choir.

But nonchalance is the m.o. of Forchhammer and Co., who pepper jokes throughout their set and, invariably, almost all end up shirtless. While men in their late 20’s, slick with sweat, dancing shirtless around a stage might sound like a bit of a devolution, it’s not; Forchhammer delivers ballads bathed in a solitary spotlight with conviction and grace. He discusses the death of his father and its influence on the creation of the album; he mentions his daughter – born last year, and for whom Southern fans will be happy to learn Forchhammer bought a pair of cowboy boots –and the affect of her birth on the meaning of his songs for him. “I have not succeeded at life,” he says, not until his daughter turns 18 and has clearly turned out alright. 

Forchhammer shares that when they initially booked the 3rd & Lindsley show, his agent had warned him that Nashville might not show up. Nashville gets a lot of great music, she’d said, and might need some time to decide whether they like him. The show sold out – the Ryman boasted a hearty attendance. (“You guys have more music venues on [Broadway] than I do in my entire country,” the Australian opener Hein Cooper remarked.) But for Lukas Graham, music connoisseurs continue to show up, with the words not just to the singles but even songs not released in America ready on their lips.

Photo by Annie Dineen