Kings of Convenience (Wednesday, February 23rd, 2005, Fine Line,
HowWasTheShow reviews are usually favorable because, working for free, our writers normally only see bands they already like or bands they have at least heard good things about from sources they trust. If a show is horrendous, we often don’t write about it so we can save precious writing and editing time for the awesome shows we live to share with you. Wednesday night, however, the Norwegian duo Kings of Convenience put on such a poor performance at the Fine Line that I can’t keep it to myself with a clear conscience.
The red-headed singer/guitarist Erlend Øye came on stage just after 9:30 PM Wednesday at the Fine Line (there was no opening act) and announced he had what he called “a light flu.” His fellow King, dark-haired singer/guitarist Eirik Glambek Bøe looked over at him and said “You know I’m here for you.” In case Øye suddenly had to drop out of a song to attend to his illness, presumably.
The duo opened up with “Until You Understand,” a track off their 2000 debut EP.
They introduced “Love is No Big Truth,” from their new, and again excellent album Riot On An Empty Street, and played it, getting the harmonies and the guitar sounds right, but the magical quality present in their recordings was somehow lost in this live mix. The song ended awkwardly, but the audience cheered enthusiastically anyway as if in support. I got the feeling this was one of the least sophisticated audiences I’d been in lately, or at least one that doesn’t attend a lot of live shows and doesn’t realize they should expect a little better than this from a major label touring band.
Up next was “Cayman Islands,” a beautiful song, no doubt about it; but again, something was missing in the mix--and I mean more than the string arrangement that fills out this song on the CD
The lack of sophistication of the crowd became horrendously apparent when during “I Don’t Know What I Can Save You From” from their first full length album, Quiet is the new Loud (Astralworks, 2001) I suddenly heard 3-part harmonies and realized a fan leaning against the bar to my left was actually singing along. (For god’s sake people, I’m glad you know the words, but save the sing along for the shower or in your car and spare us at you-can-hear-a-pin-drop acoustic shows!) Speaking of which, while I was stationed in the middle of the crowd, the people I glared at for talking over the music looked at me like I was the one being rude. Having had enough of that and starting to give up on the show, I moved to the back of the room.
Øye asked if anyone in attendance had Norwegian ancestors. In Minnesota, of course, this is like asking if the Pope is Catholic. Someone not far from where I was standing replied in what was probably real Norwegian, butcha know, I just can’t write it down any more than I can recall what it might have been.
On the next song, which I couldn’t place, I noticed a few couples with arms around each other draw each other closer as they often do in those touching concert moments. Yup, this was “a date show” if there ever was one. Except for the fact that a sophisticated music fan on a date would have ended up apologizing all the way through. (Want a couple tips for good date shows? Take your sweetie to the Louis XIV/Hot Hot Heat show Wednesday at the Quest or the Futureheads show Thursday at the Fine Line.)
Øye announced the set would be short, that they'd be cutting a few songs because of his flu. “I hope you feel better,” a girl supportively shouted out the way girls at concerts do when cute boys in internationally-renowned bands aren’t feeling well. Again, this audience, to their credit, being as supportive as possible. But in my show going experience, I prefer the non-apology Matthew Sweet made in the 90's at First Avenue when he said, “Last time I was here I was so sick I had to get drunk just play the show.” Now, there's the spirit!
Next up was “Sorry or Please,” and I took the song as my exit queue. “Sorry,” but I had to leave because I could see this show was not going to get any better, and “Please” forgive me for cutting out early, but the phenomenal Melodious Owl was awaiting me on stage at the Turf Club at Melissa Maerz’s going away party.
Yes, Wednesday’s Kings of Convenience show was bad, but I count myself lucky after reading about a review of a show two days before in Toronto that sounds even worse. Erlend Øye actually walked off the stage not once, but twice in Toronto. Fan or not, I suggest you read this review by our friends over at ChartAttack.com and join me in wishing Erlend a speedy recovery for the final leg of their US Tour which winds up in sunny Los Angeles on March 22nd.
David de Young is editor[at]howwastheshow.com