A sea of crop tops, fringe, headbands and high-waisted shorts filled Czar at the Ritz in Ybor on Sunday night for the venue's first concert post-merger. The Swedish electro-pop duo responsible for drawing these youthfully coiffed masses are perpetrators of one of this summer’s most inescapable and anthemic hits, Icona Pop.
The show was a stop on the duo’s “Iconic Tour,” in support of their self-titled debut studio album. Their hit single “I Love It” has been featured in countless television shows (including a very memorable episode of HBO’s Girls) and commercials, and has enjoyed an enormous amount of radio play.
The night began with a set by L.A. based female rapper, Sirah. Accompanied by a DJ and drummer, Sirah — dressed like an Urban Outfitters manikin, in a distressed Metallica long-sleeved tee, head turban and flannel shirt tied around her waist — bounced out on stage with an infectious energy she maintained throughout her short performance.
All of her songs (including singles “Double Yellow Lines” and “Inhale”) follow a specific formula: gritty rap verses partnered with poppy sung choruses. However formulaic, Sirah’s delivery and attitude convinced me she was having a genuinely good time. She even spit her verse from “Kyoto,” the Grammy-winning track she collabed on with pal — and dubstep messiah — Skrillex off his Bangarang EP.
San Francisco’s K. Flay was also backed by a DJ and drummer. The rapper, producer and Stanford alumna delivered a hard-hitting set full of bass heavy, complex tunes. The combination of her raspy-voiced, rapid-fire rhymes paired with unrelenting drums and grimy electronics was spookily good.
In addition to rapping and singing, K. Flay spontaneously hopped on the drumkit or cued samples using an Ableton controller, and she made the crowd totally lose it for a moment when she cued up Weezer’s “Say it Ain’t So” and dedicated it to all the “90’s babies.”
As K. Flay finished her set with the cleverly penned “Sunburn,” she solidified her power and talent. Her set was captivating, dance inducing and absent of any gimmicks.
After a good deal of stage setup, the statuesque members of Icona Pop — Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo — made their grand entrances in matching structural black-and-white rompers. Positioned at mic stands a few feet apart, they belted the harmony-driven “We Got the World” as lasers shot from behind their backs. The track was a solid opener, showcasing the vocal range of both women.
The set seemed to be modeled after the interior of a spaceship, with various instruments draped in large, other-worldly geometric structures. Periodically, each of the songstresses would leave her respective mic stand to play keyboards; however, the effect was lost, since the instrument was covered and you couldn’t see what they were doing.
Hjelt introduced the appropriately titled “Then We Kiss” as “a song about making out.” The tune opens with an odd kazoo solo, courtesy of Hjelt, and features Hjelt and Jawo chanting — wait for it — “Then! We! Kiss!” Evidently, Icona Pop are fond of three-word/three-syllable declarations for their choruses.
“Night Like This” and “Good For You” put the spotlight on Jawo, whose vocals have a lush, soulful quality, and both members swayed to the synthy house beats and catchy hooks throughout both numbers.
Synths continued to reign supreme in the electro-pop reworking of 2pac’s “Me and My Girlfriend” (also sampled in Jay Z and Beyonce’s 2003 hit, “Bonnie and Clyde”), the result a girl power, ride-or die, friendship anthem.
The remainder of Icona Pop’s set included much jumping up and down, a few moments of Jawo's passive guitar playing, and the donning of halos made of LED lights.
After a performance of new single "All Night" and a brief encore, Hjelt and Jawo thanked the crowd and dove right into blockbuster hit, “I Love It.” A venue-wide sing-along ensued.
Those who attended Icona Pop’s show on Sunday because they love the catchiness, synthiness and spirit of “I Love It” were likely not disappointed. This motif seems to be present in all of the duo’s songs — easily digestible, danceable and infectious pop music about having fun or being in love. But it was the warm-up acts, Sirah and K. Flay, who came equipped with such an arsenal of energy, originality and talent that they managed to steal the show.