The Knife are over.
After four albums, one film soundtrack, an opera and an anti-national cabaret, the Swedish duo have bowed out, and what we’re left with is a diverse collection of pop music that pushed boundaries and twisted expectations, along with the weirdest opera about Charles Darwin in the world. But before they called it quits, they had one more stretch of shows to play, a series called ‘The Shaken Up Shows’.
The Shaken Up Shows took place across the world, from America all the way to Iceland. I caught the band in Manchester, where they played a truly enlightening set on the 5th November 2014. They were originally due to play in October of 2013, but they cancelled to rework the show. It was more explosive than any fireworks display could have possibly been that night, it was certainly worth the year wait.
It started with DEEP Aerobics, a series of exercises mixed with gender and identity chants to get you in the mood. It was a little awkward for some, as the crowd were asked to jump up and down and repeat mantras, but it wasn’t long before people began to loosen up, just in time for The Knife. The start-up was akin to a children’s party entertainer, but with a political agenda and an acidic weirdness. It wouldn’t have been surprising if banners were thrown out to the crowd, ready to march for individuality and equality. It was only going to get stranger.
While The Knife are a duo, live they are a group, a way to bring attention away from Karin and Olaf, and also providing a surreal visual experience. A series of dancers in brightly coloured clothing and fabulous glowing nails donned the stage, dancing, playing instruments and singing to the wonderfully mad shaken up renditions of past songs. They largely focused on their latest and last album, Shaking The Habitual, but they also dipped into old favourites to send the crowd into a wild frenzy. The Knife’s biggest hit ‘Heart Beats’ was absent, which isn’t a surprise when you consider the groups aim to throw expectations. Instead, there is a spoken word poem called ‘Collective Body Possum’ thrown in half way to twist the mood. Everybody listened, nobody groaned.
The set was full of energy, with the performers switching between robotic, mental and joyful at the flick of a beat, and at times it was hard to know where to look. When the track ‘Pass This On’ went into a synth frenzy, there were dancers in the corner, a woman shaking an instrument which looked like a giant plastic rose, and some nutter swiping madly at an instrument which seemed similar to a xylophone. Maybe it was, the instruments seen on stage weren’t the conventional guitars and keyboards you expect to see, each one appearing alien, adding to the exotic atmosphere.
Most DJ sets tend to be one or two guys twiddling knobs on their electronic equipment, the Shaken Up Show was a dance party with a message. There are no leaders, there is no strict formula, this is how it should be. This is what we want.