Where: Aragon Ballroom
When: April 23rd, 2014
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed and Photographed by: Neil Miller, Jr.
Last night at the Aragon Ballroom, the once unthinkable actually happened…The Knife performed in the Midwest. The last time they hit U.S. soil, it was for a short stint of a handful of dates that catered only to the east and west coasts. So, most of us who were in attendance last night have been waiting to see the groundbreaking Swedish duo since 2006 when Silent Shout exploded all of our minds or even further back when Deep Cuts met our ears and became the best pop record we’ve ever heard. If you’ve been a fan since their soft-spoken debut, well, you’re probably the coolest fan around. Regardless, it’s been a long time coming and whether you’ve been waiting since 2006 or 2001, last night made the wait worthwhile.
You could feel the overall sense of anticipation for this show just waiting for the lights to dim; it was as tangible as the experience we were about to have with The Knife. After an impassioned "opening" set consisting of interactive physical and emotional warming up for the audience, it finally happened — The Knife took the stage, along with an ensemble of dancers/singers, and opened their set with the gigantic march of “Wrap Your Arms Around Me” from their latest masterpiece, Shaking the Habitual. Naturally, the set would revolve around the material on said album — but rightfully so. Love or hate the new record, it helps create a live atmosphere that fits The Knife like a glove.
The gender-centric, "far out there" latest record, which features a diversity of instruments, is allowed to thrive onstage through a presentation that rivals a Broadway show. It’s flashy, someone is always dancing, and it’s dramatic, but most of all — it’s exciting. Sure, you may miss hearing Karin sing your favorite song live, but the spectacle is more important here than the details. I’m a huge proponent of electronic groups performing live — if it can be executed onstage, then it should be…but I let this one slide just for the imagination behind it. There were weird instruments onstage that really made no sense, electronic drum kits lit up with crazy lighting, and most of the time…you had no idea where Karin was. It was very obvious that the Swedish duo wanted the attention taken off of them and placed solely on the themes and craziness that composed the Shaking the Habitual Show.
As theatrical as the show was, I do have to gripe just a little about the setlist. This show was a blast, don’t get me wrong — it couldn’t have been done better. But for their first actual U.S. tour (not just the east and west coasts), I hoped for more fan favorites. “Marble House” and “Heartbeats” were two very recognizable absences. But the only taste of Deep Cuts they gave us was “Pass This On,” and instead of dusting off “N.Y. Hotel” or “Kino” from the first record, “Bird” was their only excursion into their debut. I won’t even go there with the Silent Shout material because if it were up to me, we would’ve heard the entire record performed live.
The lesson here is: wait in the vicinity of 10 years to see your favorite Swedish pop artist, and you won’t be disappointed. The Knife did everything we’ve come to expect of them with this show: they presented a musical experience to us in a way that no one else has dared, the show was extravagant, the setlist was far from what most hardcore fans would’ve wanted (but was still just as good as it could’ve been), and there was an all-out dance party instead of an encore. It was a night to remember, that much is certain…but here’s hoping that we don’t have to wait another gazillion years to make more memories with The Knife.