03/11/2004 :: Pop
Kings of Convenience
Queen Elizabeth Hall, London ****
Royksopp, before recording Unrest, a collaboration with leftfield dance producers. Boe stayed home to complete a degree in psychology.
On their current album – perhaps unsurprisingly, as it is called Riot on an Empty Street – the duo have picked up where they left off, albeit with a softened stance that has allowed the odd cello or trumpet to fill out their sound. On stage, the only accessories were drums and grand piano, although the duo began with just their guitars. It was an effective combination as Boe’s fingers picked out rhythms on nylon strings, veering from traditional folk patterns to chirpy bossa novas, while his partner struck to starker melodic lines on a steelstrung instrument.
When Oye moved to the keyboard later in the set, it was to provide more of the same with precise arpeggios. Their harmonies wrapped around each other in an even more intimate fashion, especially when they sang a cappella.
The arrangements, though, were just the pleasant backgrond for their singular song-writing. The Kings are obsessed with not emotional blacks and whitesbut the grey palette of confusion, misunderstanding and hesitancy.The crowd loved it, especially vintage numbers such as “Toxic Girl”(“The moment conversation stops, she’s gone – again”) and “I Don’t Know I Can Save You From”, with the girl for whom Boe “wouldn’t mind to put the kettle on”. They needed the humour. It added colour to the set.
By the end, their objective analysis was starting to grate, so it was a relief when their last single, “I’d Rather Dance with You”, brought with it a propulsive drumbeat. Oye dived into the stalls to drag people to their feet, causing a rather polite charge to the front. It was a rare example of the duo performing against type, and all the more welcome for it.