I'd have to admit that, in the weeks leading up to this show, "Listen to Shaking The Habitual a load more times" had been an item on my to-do list alongside filling in my tax return and re-negotiating my phone contract—not something I've been particularly keen to do for the sheer pleasure of it. It's not that I dislike The Knife's new album, but I've come to accept that I admire it a lot more than I enjoy it. I'd love to say that seeing the record's live show was some completion of the experience and that it all suddenly made sense, but in reality my enjoyment of the package remained at a similar level while my admiration dipped significantly.
After a 20-minute warm-up set consisting of a "DEEP (Death Electro Emo Protest) Aerobics" session led by a hyperactive topless chap in spandex trousers, Olof Dreijer, Karin Dreijer Andersson and members of the dance troupe Sorkklubben took to the stage in Sunn O)))-style robes amid bone-shaking bass and began with "A Cherry On Top." Soon it was clear that the pre-show rumours were true: this would be more theatrical performance than concert. "Without You My Life Would Be Boring" was the first of many songs to involve just dancing and audio playback. The words to "Got 2 Let U" were mouthed by a giant picture-framed projection of a blond man while Sorkklubben busied themselves around him. Shaking The Habitual's first single, "Full of Fire," saw six hooded figures stand motionless at the lip of the stage for half the song's duration before bursting into dance for the remainder.
Photo credit: Sophia Spring
You couldn't call it boring exactly: shifting scenes onstage, frequent costume changes and the expectation that there must be something more compelling on the way saw to that. But there seemed an absolute and consistent disconnect between the crowd and what was happening onstage. Some tracks were at least partially performed live—"Stay Out Here"—and some others may have been. It was hard to tell at times, and the show's choreographic focus made one suspicious about the ostensibly live sections. "The Knife's Got Talent" was one friend's weary summing-up.
Deep into the set, "Stay Out Here" morphed into a banging version of "Silent Shout," creating the first and only real moment of mass abandon in the crowd all evening. And then it all ended: theatre-style bows from the nine performers, exit stage right. It left me wondering: if your habitual is as brilliant as The Knife's once was, why shake it?