Review: KALEO Opens Red Butte Garden Outdoor Concert Season

The Icelandic rock band KALEO (spelled with all caps) kicked off the Red Butte Garden Outdoor Concert Season on May 18, 2022 with Nashville-based rocker Bones Owens opening the festivities.

Bones Owens provided the thunder and KALEO brought the lightning and burned the house down. Owens started off with “Keep it Close,” a southern-fried hard driving rock number that set the stage for a perfect night on the mountain. Owens poured through five additional razor-sharp numbers bringing the crowd to their feet. Fans who love propulsive southern rock will want to keep Bones Owens on their radar. 

KALEO took the stage and gave us all a history lesson on American roots music. They artfully blended blues, rock, folk, gospel and even a hint of late ’70s disco into a fresh new sound. They showed us that American roots music is eclectic, progressive and influenced by many contributions—even four artists from Iceland.

They opened with their new single “Break My Baby” and rolled into their signature sound with “Broken Bones.” KALEO is a relatively new band, hitting our shores in 2016 with a fantastic debut album A/B. In 2021 they released their sophomore album Surface Sounds. With only two full-length albums under their belt, you’d think their arsenal of music would be as thin as our mountain air, but both albums are loaded with great songs that make KALEO feel like a more seasoned band.

The Icelandic quartet was accompanied by two backup vocalists (Jessica Jolia and April Rucker) who gave the already soulful blues sound a dynamic gospel feel. “Hot Blood” had the crowd rising to their feet like a tent show revival. KALEO then took us on a magical mystery tour through the 1970s with “Gringo.” Frontman JJ Juliusson pulled a falsetto out of his vocal quiver for this one, reminiscent of the Rolling Stones circa 1978 (think “Miss You”).

KALEO moved with fluidity back to their signature sound, a dark brooding soulfulness with “Brother Run Fast” and “Way Down We Go.”  These two incredible songs are a must for any Sunday morning playlist that’ll give you all the spirituality you’ll need without leaving the house.

The 3,000 or so lucky fans who were able to attend this sold-out show got a bounty of great American roots music. No wonder KALEO was hand-picked in 2019 to open stadium dates for the Rolling Stones. To see them headline on the Red Butte stage was a memorable evening and an incredible way to kick off the Red Butte Outdoor Concert Series.

Springtime in the Rockies is akin to Gump’s box of chocolates, but on Wednesday night we got an amazingly warm spring evening. Mother nature and the Red Butte sound crew ensured that we enjoyed pitch-perfect sound from both artists. Kudos!

  • Who: KALEO
  • What: An Icelandic blues/rock band (yes, there is one and they’re awesome)
  • Where: Red Butte Garden Amphitheater
  • When: May 18, 2022

John Nelson
John Nelson
John Nelson covers the local music scene for Salt Lake magazine. He is a 20-year veteran of Uncle Sam’s Flying Circus with a lifelong addiction to American roots music, live music venues, craft beer and baseball.

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