Hater’s gonna hate, but The Knife’s performance on Saturday night was plenty to write home about. Their hour-and-a-half-long aerobic marathon in Harpa’s Silfurberg—officially their last live show of all time—was spectacular in the most literal meaning of the word.
I’ll admit I haven’t thought much about The Knife since the height of local dive-bar Sirkus (RIP) circa 2006, when I was seventeen and not supposed to be in Sirkus. That year also happens to be the last time the Swedish duo dropped an album prior to ‘Shaking the Habitual’ (2013), on which their current tour is focused. That, coupled with the fact that this is only the band’s second tour in their entire 14-year-run, makes it safe to assume that The Knife is not best-known as a live band.
So cut to Harpa on a Saturday night in 2014. Cut to the oppressive heat of Silfurberg where nothing is regulating the number of people inside the venue besides the sheer physical force of bodies blocking the door.
Indeed, mostly everything about The Knife’s set and my experience of it was posited on a distinct physicality. For one, the set was preluded by a woman warming up the crowd with some D.E.E.P. Aerobics—“I’m not The Knife. But I’m here to cut through the bullshit”—which involved some physical and emotional cheerleading—“self-consciousness is the illusion that this is only happening to me”—and quite literally set the tone for the forthcoming performance.
Once on stage, The Knife had grown in physical size from two to eleven, with various dancers/musicians/back-up singers shifting between ambiguous roles, taking turns taking on the the voice of Karin Dreijer Andersson as they lip synced the words. From the onset, it became clear that it would not be made clear what part of the set was actually happening live or who was actually performing what. Voices moved between lips and insrumentation gave way to physical movements wherein the members onstage seemed to beat sound out of the air, their bodies becoming imaginary instruments.
But how imaginary was it really? In a way, the music was more tangible as seen pulsing through the performers’ bodies. What is it really that we want from a live show, after all? Certainly the feeling of engagement from the performers. Certainly a bit of glitz and glam. And certainly the performers had focus. So much so that the whole thing felt almost cult-ish, with a concentrated collusion onstage between performers who seemed to be truly giving their all (despite the fact that they may not actually have been giving off any sound). Say what you will about the pretense of their brighly coloured ABBA jumpsuits. The implications of the concert may very well have been more complex than a standing-room concert allowed for. Silfurberg may have been a hell-hole of hotness by the end of the set, but what was happening onstage was undoubtedly the perfect physical manifestation of the music of The Knife. Admit it.
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Posted November 9, 2014