Stereogum Does CMJ: The Knife @ Webster Hall

Whether it was a love for that José Gonzales cover, a need for a ticket stub of honor, or an all-out appreciation for the best electro-pop outfit in years, The Knife’s early show at Webster last night was the must-see on most hipster lists — and the block-long line for will-call (with the Cardigans in VIP!) had the shit-eating grins to prove it. The anticipation was palpabale and understandable; this was Karin and Olof’s first American show and only their twelfth overall. But it was our second Knife outing (the first was this summer in Norway), and expectedly less magical for it.

The setup was nearly the same: a scrim pulled before a spare stage, with the oh-so-mysterious siblings rocking a deep shade of Blue Man Group face paint and two instrument stations with jags and crosses of blacklight-reactive tape. One of many things that has kept The Knife from gracing these shores has been the prohibitive cost of transporting their equipment, but last night’s Webster set shows that their growing success has allowed them a decent touring budget. The stage had four huge puppet heads lined up left-to-right at rear stage, which had everything from blinking, three-eyed ghouls to normal human faces singing along to select songs. Sorta creepy, sorta cool.

With The Wall-at-your-local-planetarium type laser images projected on the scrim, and modern art styled animation clips racing across the back screen, the duo did their thing, dancing jerkily to crowd killers like “We Share Our Mother’s Health,” “Pass This On,” and “Silent Shout.” As for “Heartbeats,” it received a mild makeover, with Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” bass bongs and some altered arrangements — but ya can’t bury the melody, and ya can’t deny this is one of the great songs of this indie epoch.

At a Knife show, the backing music is entirely pre-recorded (Olof’s drumstick wielding is more choreography than actual drum pad pounding) but Karin’s vocals are live and spot-on; as hyped and attested to, they are primarily a “visual act,” but really, it’s all about the songs (which sounded amazing — Webster’s house system was made for this sort of pristine electro-rave goodness). And after this short sweep through the States, The Knife will either retire from live shows entirely (as they never planned on playing more than five), or entirely revamp their live shows. We’re hoping for the latter, ’cause records this good just sound better when you’re surrounded by a sea of sweaty bodies, ya know?

01. “Pass This On”
02. “The Captain”
03. “We Share Our Mother?s Health”
04. “You Make Me Like Charity”
05. “Marble House”
06. “Forest Families”
07. “Kino”
08. “Heartbeats”
09. “Silent Shout”
10. “From Off To On”
11. “Like a Pen”

Tags: CMJ