Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Where's Planningtorock - or - CMJ Sure Can Pickem

Unless you were there or are going to the San Francisco shows later this week, you missed out. Seriously. I'm not big on predictions or hype. I hate hype, actually. Sometimes it's funny, but, no, hype is terrible. So this isn't hype. The Knife are for real.

They just played their first American shows tonight in New York, and at least the one I went to was pretty freaking amazing. The stage set up was elaborate enough that a band of their size (market share wise, not physically) probably couldn't feasibly take anything really like it on the road for very long. They had a large projection screen showing awesome shit the whole time, a full length screen in the front of the stage housing a second projection, and all of that shit. I can't see it playing really well in places like Charlotte or Phoenix. But maybe I'm wrong. That's not the point.

The point is that they were awesome. I had heard that they wear costumes, it's all about the projections rather than the Knife themselves, and all of that made me wonder: are these guys actually just really boring performers? Laptop heads hiding behind a technologically complex but emotionally vacant stage show?

Obviously, they aren't. Olof Dreijer dances exactly like Dave Gahan. Maybe he would object to the idea, but I doubt it. The same arm heavy, angular, sexy in a totally blocky sort of way thing that apparantly the music of both the Knife and Depeche Mode inspire. He looked totally confident the whole show. Didn't miss a beat even when he wasn't doing much. And with
so much going on in any one of the Knife's songs his choices of what to attempt to do live were extremely interesting. The indispensible steel drums on um, I think it's "Pass This On" to the easily overlooked snare hits on "We Share Our Mother's Health".

And his sister Karin sells any voice she's working with. Manipulating it to sound like a man, she acts the part. She uses her hands, her masked face, all in a subtle way, implying emotiveness with a minimum of movement.

And then there's the music. "Like A Pen", the encore, was the only song they played straight up the entire night. "Heartbeats" was brilliantly interpolated and flipped, maintaining intensity at a slower tempo and allowing the sentiment and melody of the song to sink in even deeper than the Deep Cuts version. And they played a lot from Deep Cuts, albeit without "You Take My Breath Away", showing the New York audience, many of whom probably had never heard the album, that they aren't just a one album pony.

Oh the restraint, too! How hard it must be to not blow your wad as a band with a song like "Heartbeats" or even "Silent Shout" and save it for the one song all evening I didn't know, which was amazing, or even "Like a Pen". This set was obviously very carefully constructed, and as wierd as it was it was perfect. Who knows, maybe they'll be back next year. Or maybe this is it. But I doubt it. A band this good at what they do, and even probably some things they don't is unlikely to get away from the biz without playing in LA or Chicago at least once.

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