15. March 2017 wasn’t a good day for Ulige Numre fans who woke up to the news about the band’s break up. With all due respect, the thought of never hearing “København” and “Frit Land” live again was depressing.
Fortunately, the future wasn’t so bleak – a couple weeks later, the lead singer – Carl Emil Petersen, revealed his plans to go solo, and it became increasingly hard to keep up with the 26-year-old who went off to play at Roskilde Festival, stared in a documentary for DR3 and recorded his solo album.
“Natradio” is a brilliant and diverse LP which can easily compete with its Ulige Numre-era predecessors, but can Carl Emil really do it on his own? His set at Roskilde proved that he can, with some help from his newly-assembled band, but when the 28-date solo tour announcement came and promised only Carl Emil with an acoustic guitar, we just had to see it to believe it.
ON A COLD FEBRUARY EVENING, WE FOUND OURSELVES IN RINGSTED,
a small town 40 minutes away from Copenhagen. The venue is in a library, and the audience looks sophisticated. Rows of seats are lined up in front of the dimly lit stage on which there’s no drum kit, no fancy backdrop – just three acoustic guitars and a radio to decorate the setup.
Carl Emil Petersen walks out, sits down and starts playing “Navn I Sne”, an old Ulige Numre song. It really is just him, his guitar and a harmonica, and, somehow, it doesn’t feel like anything is missing. The setlist is a good mix of his own brand new songs such as “Liv Før Døden”, “Skærgården” and well known Ulige Numre hits “Os Idioter” (“en arbejde sang”), “Blå” and “Dansk Vejr”.
Carl Emil cracks jokes throughout the whole evening. They must be hilarious because the audience keeps laughing, but our Danish is a bit too limited to understand the punchlines. After a short break, he starts talking about his car. You don’t have to be fluent in Danish to know that he’s really fond of it – you can hardly see his eyes under the veil of his hair, but his smile lights up this whole room. “It is my first car, and I dedicate this next song to it“, he says and proceeds to cover Bruce Springsteen’s “State Trooper”. Hearing Carl Emil singing in English certainly takes some getting used to.
The show comes to a close with Ulige Numre’s iconic “København” and “Frit Land” – 15. March wasn’t the end, after all! Most people in Denmark have heard these two songs a hundred times, but this time they sound completely different and even more majestic. Still, nobody sings along. In fact, the audience remains silent throughout the whole concert. It’s not because they don’t know the lyrics – you can tell that they do, it’s just that it almost feels rude to intervene. Tonight, Carl Emil is the one doing the singing. We can only provide the listening, the smiling and, of course, a lot of clapping.
After the show, we hang around for a few minutes and ask Carl Emil how it feels to be on his first ever solo tour. “It feels good”, he says confidently, “different but good. I’m not always going to play solo though. I will tour again with my new band soon.”
Carl Emil Petersen is on his solo tour now. It’s an experience you don’t want to miss, so make sure to catch him at Copenhagen’s Hotel Cecil on 29. or 30. March. Tickets are available here.