Concert: Kings of Convenience at ICA London, Guardian; The Arches Glasgow, Scotsman

Guardian 23 June, Scotsman 24 June 2004

24/06/2004 :: (Three our of five stars)

Kings of Convenience might have to claim the title Thinking Girl's Boy Band if their effect on young women is any yardstick. The wolf whistles and squeals that erupt as each song ends must have Erlend Oye and Eirik Boe pinching themselves: the former looks like a teenage computer hacker, the latter like a male Tracey Emin, and collectively they seem less a band than a delegation from a librarians' convention.
They're obviously doing something right, yet everything about them is wrong, according to the zeitgeist. They attract attention by being quieter than anybody else (as their first album asserted, Quiet is the New Loud). Nothing much happens during their 45 minutes on stage, just some whispery harmonising over acoustic guitars to whimsically titled songs such as Most Peculiar Man.

The frontman, and teller of laboured jokes, isn't even the cuter Boe, as you'd expect, but his bespectacled, shuffling partner. None of it makes sense, but something about their warm harmonic convergence and nostalgic lyrics speaks to the audience.

Oye puts his finger on it when, introducing Gold in the Air of Summer from the new album Riot on an Empty Street, he says, "It'll never be a ringtone." That it won't. Nor will even their best-loved song, I Don't Know What I Can Save You From, which is simplicity itself, but not in a particularly catchy way. The lack of socko choruses doesn't make the duo's autumnal world less accessible; though. The aim of all the understatement - which is akin to hearing Simon and Garfunkel's The Sound of Silence on a 45-minute loop - is to weave a cocoon of intimacy, and in this they succeed.

Caroline Sullivan for The Guardian


DURING the ridiculous NME-constructed scene that was the New Acoustic Movement, Kings Of Convenience were its uncomfortable figureheads and the acoustic guitar-touting geeks who briefly inherited the earth. Now that their unhip appearance, hushed vocals, warm harmonies and stripped-down ballads are utterly out of place in a music scene headed by the likes of Franz Ferdinand, Keane and Jet, they seem, rather perversely, more at home.

This was plain to see at their Arches gig on Tuesday night, as the Norwegian duo played on their geeky tendencies to comic effect, much to the delight of the enraptured crowd seated around candle-lit tables. Kitted out in big glasses, jumpers and shaggy hair, they were the epitome of anti-cool with lyrics about "putting the kettle on" as Eirik Boe made self-depricating jokes and the spidery Erlend Øye swayed awkwardly around the stage, at one point dancing with a jacket on a mic stand. This hilarious oddball double act came as a welcome break from an enjoyable, if a little intense, musical experience, allowing us to snap out of the silent reverie induced by their incredibly delicate material.

Called back for two encores and receiving a standing ovation, it was clear that the pair’s lovely melancholy sound had been missed during their three-year hiatus but it’s taken this break for the Kings to gain confidence and claim their rightful place as loveably eccentric outsiders, and they were all the better for it.

CAMILLA PIA for The Scotsman

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