The atmosphere at NASA prior to the start of Coco Rosie’s set did not point towards a terribly enjoyable evening. The crowd was of the vegetarian coffeehouse variety, consisting mostly of smiling, smoke-free youths all here to see their favourite band, but who scornfully mock the opening act who was delaying their heroes’ appearances.
I can’t say I disagreed with them. Paul Lydon’s music was so forced that even the supposedly open-minded and easygoing types rolled their eyes in ignominy and sipped their cocktails in disdain. Once the wailing and rather badly amplified piano had subsided, the room started to fill with a very genuine, even innocent form of anticipation.
Everyone there was obviously in love with Coco Rosie. They’re simply too much of a fad to draw anyone but the most appreciative and most devoted fans. The people trying to appear hip by listening to them would never go as far as to see the show; actually paying money to see the concert would be a waste of unemployment benefits better spent on Naked Ape sweaters or paying the rent for their fashionably situated 101 Reykjavík basement apartments.
What this inevitably meant was that no matter how pretentious the people onstage might be, the crowd were honest and well-intentioned. When the band finally stepped forth, they too were deeply appreciative of the peripheral social nook who had come to see them, and although they couldn’t resist a little theatricality (trying to be a weird and spontaneous artist is one thing, but Coco Rosie took contrivance to a new level with their bludgeoningly over-the-top Native American headdress), they eventually became so enamoured with their viewers that it simply became one big party… well, maybe not big, but my point is that by the end of the night, the only way to tell the band from the audience was whether they were on a stage or not.
Live, Coco Rosie are completely without their trademark haphazard production and meticulously engineered quirkiness, which works as a sort of double-edged sword for them: It makes listening to them a lot less irritating, for without their fad-making production, the songwriting and emotion shone pure, giving them a vitality that could never be captured on record, but in the process exposed that same songwriting for being little more than the work of the latest in a long line of flavours-of-the-month in the world of indie pop.
I had always dismissed their style as being too reaching, too pretentious to convey any meaning to their music, but their performance that night showed me that the music is in fact very traditional and straightforward, it just isn’t presented as such: a winning formula by any standards, as evidenced by the crowd, who remained diligently entertained by even the tamest numbers. At one point, I even heard someone shushing a particularly talkative individual so as to better hear the vocal work, some of which was, admittedly, stunning. Make no mistake, Coco Rosie are a talented band, and well-deserving of the niche they’ve carved out for themselves, but no amount of careful niche-carving will save them from disappearing into the annals of forgotten indie fads, and any concert where someone gets shushed at simply has to suck, simple as that.