Live Review

The Knife, Roundhouse, London

More like a rave than a live performance.

The Knife are unsurprisingly in high demand. Rarely stepping outside of Europe for live performances, they have only played in London three times in their 14 years of existence (excluding last night and tonight) and haven’t played elsewhere in the UK. So it’s no surprise that they’ve sold out two much sought after dates at Camden’s Roundhouse.

Someone in the audience is wearing a shirt from the last time The Knife came to London six years ago; it reads “An audio visual experience” and nothing less is to be expected from their return. Having just released ‘Shaking The Habitual’ – their most sparse, challenging but ultimately rewarding record to date; it has a certain kind of danceability live that you might not expect for songs of their length. But before everyone can dance, there’s a warm up.

Deep Aerobics are not a support band with a terrible name, instead a man getting everyone pumped up for The Knife by attempting to make people do various dances. As he’s positioned to the back of the room, the majority of the audience have to copy the people around them – a lot of whom are confused and unmoved by this ‘inspired’ choice to get everyone into the show. As the instructor gets us to shout “I am not a man, I am not a woman”, it brings to mind the repetitive chant of “Let’s talk about gender baby, let’s talk about you and me” from ‘Full Of Fire’. By the time The Knife are due to come on, everyone is at least a little more loosened up but most likely not prepared for what is to follow.

Mystery and anonymity, two things that Swedish outfit The Knife possess that make tonight’s performance at Roundhouse puzzling but extremely captivating. As the opening of ‘A Cherry On Top’ plays, the bass resonates so hard that you can feel it in your whole body. Cloaked figures wander around the mist filled stage – slowly taking their positions. The first part of the stage to be illuminated is a harp with neon-rainbow strings, being played hauntingly as Karin’s voice emerges from the darkness. But it’s difficult to tell whether it’s Karin or not. In fact, it’s hard to tell throughout the whole performance which of the 10 people on stage are Karin and Olof as they’re all fully clad in robes and mask-like glittery make up. Not only that but they change positions for every song and take turns to mime Karin’s vocals.

The theatrics involved make the performance even more mesmerising as they perform synchronised moves and use interpretive dance to act out some of their lyrics. At one point, three of them stand to the front of the stage waving about large, bendy glow-in-the-dark sticks and a whirring noise accompanies – it’s hard to tell whether the noise is emitted from the glowsticks or from somewhere else. Various unfamiliar instruments are brought on and off stage. The constant movement means that it’s hard to take your eyes away for even a second in fear of missing something. It’s all wonderfully strange.

As strobe lights flash and flicker and the bass throbs, it starts to feel more like a rave than a live performance as there’s a widespread euphoric feeling amongst the dancing crowd when they close with ‘Silent Shout’ The Knife certainly shook the habitual tonight and as they slink off into the darkness unnoticed at the end of ‘Silent Shout’ and seamlessly transition into a DJ set, there’s not one person in the room left standing still.

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