London Islington Union Chapel

It's impossible to imagine these two on a podium down [B]Fabric[/B]...

Two nerdy boys and their acoustic guitars? Rock’n’roll, let’s go! OK, so when softly-spoken Norwegians Eirik Glambek Boe and Erlend Oye launch into the honeysuckle harmonies and rippling arpeggios of ‘Until You Understand’, it’s Simon & Garfunkel and The Everly Brothers who spring to mind. Not to mention, sitting by the fire, jumpers and toast.

Yet, cuddly and safe as this sound is, you’d be a fool to dismiss Kings Of Convenience as mere folky throwbacks. With arrangements this stripped-down, they live or die by their melodies, and the jazzy, Nick Drake air of ‘Sing Softly To Me’ and the baroque-folk of ‘Toxic Girl’ provide vindication. There’s nothing extraneous here, no wavering vocal inflection, no finger-picked string stumbled over: every note is hauntingly perfect.

In fact, this performance is so fragile and vulnerable that watching becomes almost an act of voyeurism: their hearts are bursting, but you can’t turn away. Even their version of A-ha‘s ‘Manhattan Skyline’ is achingly melancholic.

Light relief appears in the form of bespectacled Erlend indulging in a bit of, er, disco dancing during ‘Night Life’, a wonderfully straight-faced exegesis on the problems of chatting someone up in a club. It’s impossible to imagine these two on a podium down Fabric, but that doesn’t mean they’re out of touch.