Thursday, June 10, 2010

You Missed Out: Kings of Convenience

There must be something about northern Europeans and You Can Call Me Al. The last time I heard this song covered was a few years ago at the Logan Square Auditorium when Swedish sensation Jens Lekman got the party on with his all-female band's cute-as-hell rendition. But, honestly, that paled in comparison to Kings of Convenience's tour-closer last night at The Metro.

It might've been the most enjoyable conclusion to a show I've ever seen. The energy level rose gradually from the first song, and it was the most drastic build-up show I've ever seen. For the first few songs, the Kings stood side by side with their acoustic guitars and sang as quietly as The Metro's system could handle. Annoying, buzzing feedback from hundreds of past punk rock shows plagued this part of the set, keeping the interaction between audience and performers consistently awkward.

But as the show continued, both parties began to say "eh, what the hell," and everybody loosened up. During the intro to a more upbeat tune, the gangly, moppy-red-headed Erland subtly danced over to a piano at stage right, tinkering briefly. "Just checking," he quipped in the most fantastic accent known to man. He sounds like Dr. Nick Riviera all hushed and adorable. But the more he talked, the more people smiled and happier the building became.

The feedback seemed to stop once he started playing piano. Either that, or the band and crowd just got too into it to let a little buzzing bother the fun.

Then they brought out their opening band to play some louder songs. Now there was dancing. And the cheering got louder. When they played I'd Rather Dance With You, there wasn't a stiff body in the place. Any buzzing dragon that may have existed before was slain by the good Kings of Norway. It was a party.

Of course, they pretended that it was their last song, and they left the stage. But The Metro erupted, getting louder than a swarm of tweens at a Justin Bieber show. It was the loudest I'd heard the venue in years.

When the Kings of Convenience returned, Erland picked up an electric guitar for the first time of the evening as they brought the crowd to tearful silence with an absolutely perfect performance of Homesick. It was alarming to hear such beautiful harmonies at such low volumes after the excitement of I'd Rather Dance. But it worked.

After that song, as the crowd was marveling at the harmonies they'd just heard, one audience member asked them why they sing in English. And they actually had a story for the answer. It wasn't just because English appeals to American pop culture, because it wasn't initially their intention at all. Erland and Eirik started in a band singing Norweigan, and hadn't harmonized while doing so. But one day Eirik decided to play a Joy Division song, and Erland decided to harmonize with it. The sound worked so well, they decided to make it their trademark.

That's when they gave the crowd one more song as a duo, before they closed the night out with the whole band again and You Can Call Me Al. Erland put down his guitar, replacing it with noodly dance moves all over the stage. At the high point he declared that the crowd must make a pit, and a dance-off would commence. "I will come down to the pit, and one of you must challenge me!" Of course, no one could dethrone the good King, but he sure did please his followers when he came down there with them. Like I said, it may have been the best show-ending I've seen.

Two men quietly harmonizing with their acoustic guitars. It's a simple formula, but especially when contrasted with a dance party, this really is some of the best music in the world. If you missed out, they play in North America once every five years or so. But don't worry, it'll still be good when we're in our thirties. And You Can Call Me Al will still get the dance floor crowded.


LifeLessPlastic said...

Absolutely amazing show! I've been trying to communicate with people about the performance--how the show began so quiet and built and built until the amazing dance-off caused an absolute audience frenzy. It was so great. Most definitely the best concert I've ever been to, a real masterpiece.

Who knew such quiet folk music could get so many people dancing?

sdas said...
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