When Swedish pop rockers the Sounds first toured America for their 2003 debut CD, ''Living in America," their initial Boston date was at the Middle East's tiny 200-capacity upstairs room. The show sold out and then some; many were turned away. This time around, the quintet's 40-date North American tour for its just-released second record, ''Dying to Say This to You," brought the band to Avalon Ballroom (2,000 capacity) on Friday night. Though the venue was only half-filled, expectations are now far higher.
Dynamic singer Maja Ivarsson looked exactly the same: a leggy dead ringer for Blondie's Debbie Harry, what with her shock of platinum blond hair and uber-chick attitude. She wore a black shorts outfit that was more athletic than cute. Barefoot, she high-kicked, stage-dived, and prowled, belting out new songs ''Queen of Apology" and ''24 Hours," which buzzed like instant classics.
The band's anthemic power-pop hit, ''Living in America" was dispensed early and magnificently, about a third of the way through the set. That was a move that backfired: the early peak made the rest of the set feel anti-climactic. The encore, though dynamic, revealed more cracks in the canon. The superb ''Dance With Me" was followed by a flat romp through the pleaser ''Fire." The final song, ''Ego," rang hollow but was given a glossy finish when synthesizer player Jesper Anderberg and guitarist Felix Rodriguez stood front and center, bashing out a feverish beat together on a set of digital drum pads, as drummer Fredrik Nilsson powered up behind them. It's a standard Sounds ending by now, sure, but still a visually effective flourish.
Openers Morningwood dished up dayglo dance rock and invited one audience member to ''put out" during ''Take Off Your Clothes." The girl gleefully gyrated and nuzzled intimately with singer Chantal Claret, and dutifully lost her top in the process. Come back Jim Morrison: all is forgiven.