Peter Bjorn and John: Dingwalls, London; Monday September 25
The Scandi-pop party comes to town, but doesn’t actually get started
Talk about false advertising. The flyer for tonight’s gig clearly states that this evening we’ll be entertained by the smooth Swede-pop stylings of Peter, Bjorn and John. Although: “John’s not here,” Peter or Bjorn shrugs apologetically, “he’s, um, at home. Don’t tell anyone in Liverpool, though. We didn’t. They all think this guy’s John.”
Whoever their replacement drummer is – let’s call him Ringo – he’s stumbled into a difficult London show for these meek and trendy Scandinavians. Not only is one third of their name now a certified lie, but tonight guitars break, mics falter and speakers offer all the amplification of a phlegmy sponge.
Not that anyone here came expecting to get their brain haemorrhaged by noise, exactly, but this set’s more delicate moments makes combing your hair sound like Slayer setting dogs on fire.
On the rare occasion that the volume knob is found, however, this idiosyncratic trio’s sad and throbbing dance-folk rhythms have enough heart to make a rugby team of concrete Nazis cry. What should be warm melodic nuggets are so oddly flushed with melancholy, it’s like watching classic pop songs grow old and die (this is better than it sounds). The swooping ‘Up Against The Wall’ and the icy ‘Start To Melt’ are so beautifully rendered that tonight’s general malaise is only made doubly infuriating. World-beating songs drown within this modest venue and none more dramatically than cult whistle-tastic summer sleeper hit, ‘Young Folks’. It may not be fair to expect former Concretes maiden Victoria Bergsman to appear for the duet, but without her, or any genuine attempt at the whistled chorus, what should be the highlight of the set feels a little like watching Jimi Hendrix perform ‘Purple Haze’ with a ukulele.
There’s little doubt that on record Peter Bjorn And John are contenders, but in Camden tonight Peter, Bjorn and Ringo just seem like impostors.