Mute sent out advances of Mando Diao's debut CD, Bring 'em In, in June and it's been in the top 25 most played on my iTunes ever since. The old R&B/soul records that The Beatles and Stones and other UK bands of the first British invasion drew inspiration from (Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, etc.) are at the root of Mando Diao's sound. They have a hint of punk/garage as well, and the casual listener could lazily toss Mando Diao together with fellow Swedish rock band The Hives, but that would be a mistake. Mando Diao are a rock band along the lines of all great rock bands of the past. They draw inspiration from underappreciated (by the mainstream) old black men, infuse it with a modern flair, and reintroduce a new generation of kids to the music that changed the world years ago. Last night, Mando Diao came to Chicago and I clearly had some high expectations of how I wanted this show to go. They did not disappoint.
Mando Diao were the second band on a three-act bill at the intimate and cozy Chicago venue, Schubas. It was the band's first proper US gig, excluding a couple of performances at CMJ, and obviously their first time in the Windy City. Needless to say, there was not an overwhelming turnout for the Sunday night event, and about half of the people in attendance were industry peeps. That had no affect on the band's performance however, as they could have easily had a room ten times that size dancing in no time. Mando Diao, clad in black leather and mop top haircuts, didn't waste too much time talking: they let the music speak for itself. At center stage stood Gustaf. He had to have been at least 6'5" and towered over the rest of his band mates, especially bassist C-J, who was easily more than foot shorter. The entire band had a swagger and cocky demeanor, not quite Hives-esque, but let me just say that self-confidence was not in short supply anywhere on that stage (or off). The band's short set saw them run through "Little Boy Jr.," "To China With Love," "Mr. Moon," and personal favorite "Motown Blood," as well as their current single, "Sheepdog." They absolutely killed. This band has what it takes to be huge. Go see them. Go buy their records.