Roundhouse, London, Wednesday May 8
Six things you’ll see when you watch the Swedish duo take their new album ‘Shaking The Habitual’ on the road…
1. AEROBICS AND COSTUME CHANGES
Roughly 10 people appear onstage wearing hooded robes to the sounds of ‘A Cherry On Top’. During ‘Raging Lung’ the robes come off, and so begins a live show based heavily on Deep Aerobics (short for Death Electro Emo Protest Aerobics, apparently), which are performed throughout the show by Karin Dreijer Andersson, Olof Dreijer and their dancers. Hatstands at either end of the stage are draped with what looks like the contents of an American Apparel warehouse. This never-ending supply of purple, blue and pink tracksuits is frequently put to use, most colourfully on the song ‘Without You My Life Would Be Boring’.
2. HOMEMADE INSTRUMENTS
The only band on earth capable of making computers look good is Kraftwerk, so The Knife leave their laptops off the stage. Instead it’s filled with homemade instruments – a harp made of ribbons, a wooden tube covered in drum pads, a stack of mushroom-shaped metal bells. Songs like ‘Bird’ make full use of them, though it’s unclear whether people are playing the instruments or just pretending to. Some performers beat the air like drums,some beat each other like drums, and the rest beat actual drums.
3. OCCASIONAL EMPTINESS
For ambient tracks like ‘Networking’, the dancers are given a break and the stage is occupied by a colourful lightshow. At moments like these, various unimpressed fans leave.
4. HIDDEN IDENTITIES
When there are seven people onstage with similar clothes and haircuts, it’s hard to tell who anyone is. Even Karin and Olaf are hard to pinpoint, although it’s likely she’s the one with the black make-up around her eyes and he’s wearing a ponytail wig and purple shellsuit. But no-one is on frontperson duty tonight. This is rammed home on ‘Wrap Your Arms Around Me’, when more than one person mimes Karin’s vocal. It leads to accusations that none of the music tonight is actually being played live.
During ‘Got 2 Let U’ a big face is projected onto a screen that’s inside a frame that’s sitting in the middle of the stage. It looks a lot like a woman dressed up to resemble a slightly nerdy man, with a fake beard, a pair of geeky glasses and a big scarf.
6. A COUPLE OF BANGERS
Well, ‘One Hit’ and ‘Silent Shout’. But The Knife’s live show isn’t about hits, it’s about something else. This, after all, is a band whose new album is a concoction of polyrhythms and post-gender theory. In Karin’s words: “If we activate our bodies we think so much better, and learn so much more.”