Gig review: The Knife @ Manchester Academy

Swedish indie-electro duo, The Knife, took to the stage at Academy One last night in a crazy orgy of electric, energetic eccentricity for one of the last performances of their final tour, Shaking the Habitual: Shaken Up.

Most conventional bands grace the stage following a support act, but that would seem far too predictable for the notoriously bizarre Swedish ravers, whose warm up consisted of what could accurately be described as Mr Motivator on acid.

Donning glittering garments and an unexplainable Lisa Minnelli wig – ‘Mrs Motivator’ as she will now affectionately be named – the band prepped the audience with ‘deep aerobics’ performed to the repetitive beats adored by fans of the genre.

It was an entertaining routine, and those who were not committed enough to ‘bounce their asses’, balls and various other body parts as requested were certainly amused or at least bewildered by the energetic display.

Once the audience were suitably pumped up, The Knife came to the stage.

SWEDISH SIBLINGS: The crowd went wild for the indie-electro duo

The venue was not sold out, but what The Knife lacked in numbers they gained in enthusiastic and loyal following.

For those who already know their music, there was no disappointment. Electronic, energetic, eccentric. The three truths promised by The Knife’s reputation were delivered in full force.

The duo opened with ‘Wrap Your Arms Around Me’appearing as mere silhouettes set dancing provocatively against a smoky background, which succeeded in deceiving the audience’s perception and disguising Olof and Karin Dreijer, lead vocalists, to the point where it was unclear whether the pair were even singing. It later became apparent that they were not.

Surrounded by backing dancers dressed in metallic jumpsuits, the ethereal music was accompanied with contemporary dancing and a coloured light show.

Once the lights came up for the second song, hypnotic percussion was the driving force behind a spectacle which could only be supported by the creative minds of the Warehouse Project.

The music was all pre-recorded, even down to the drums, which were mimed spectacularly for a large portion of the show. This allowed for the band and their accompanying gaggle of glittery minions to throw themselves whole-heartedly around the stage in time with the beat.

Although quite monotonous, the music did shift focus occasionally from song to song. A few songs were slightly faster and bordering on tribal, with dance moves that wouldn’t have looked out of place if they were performed by the New Zealand All Blacks.

Amongst the cacophony and chaos, one thing is for certain: no instruments were harmed in the making of this show. The electronic sax and drum kit were perhaps not used in the way nature intended, but the sounds reflected the group’s talent at manipulating music to create the distinctive electronic noises for which they are recognised.

The miming did not seem to detract from the show. The mesmerised audience bobbed and jiggled in time with the pounding bass song after song, and the band’s performance oozed such vitality that it was difficult not to get sucked in by the hype.

DURACELL BUNNIES: The limitless energy of Olof and Karin Dreijer went down a storm at last night’s Academy gig

As the stage descended into chaos, The Knife’s energy never faltered. Like Duracell bunnies they kept going and going to the last.

The pounding beat did at times become slightly repetitive, with little variation between the five or six songs in the middle of the set, but they kept the audience’s attention throughout with a relentless performance.

Taking a very brief detour, female vocalist, Karin Dreijer, slowed things down for her solo performance. In this short monologue she delivered an erotic interpretation of Jess Arndt’s poem ‘Collective Body Possum’ in which she went into uncomfortable detail about the ideal body, rewarded by wild cheers from the crowd.

Ending on ‘Silent Shout’, the audience were teased with snippets of ‘Rhythm of the Night’ as the band and their tribe came to centre stage to dance maniacally through to the finish line.

The gig may not have been a demonstration of true musical virtuosity, but it was a spectacle like no other. And although many may have missed the fireworks last night to see the final leg of The Knife’s last ever tour, the Swedish siblings made sure that they certainly went out with a bang.

Top image courtesy of Ultra 5280, with thanks  

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