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How the Knife is changing the definition of a rock-and-roll show by removing ego

How the Knife is changing the definition of a rock-and-roll show by removing ego
Brandon Marshall

Before the Knife's show proper got started, a guy who was dressed like a particularly garish Russell Brand got the crowd warmed up with some calisthenics. You know, the sort of thing that's done en masse in Japan and China.

It was part impromptu dance-class primer and part yoga class, with just a hint of square dancing. The commands were delivered with a friendly dose of social coercion while the instructor prepped the audience for the show to come. It was what the guy called "deep aerobics." He also called it "death electric emo party aerobics." He did get most of the crowd to shout especially well-thought-out slogans, like, "I feel so alive I'm not afraid to die"; "Self-consciousness is the illusion that this is only happening to me"; and, in the end, "I move to be moved." This surreal introduction set the perfect stage for what the Knife did next.

See also: The Knife at the Fillmore

With at least quasi-choreographed moves, colorful outfits, a dynamic light show with fog and a stage set designed to allow the eleven people on stage to switch up their roles in the performance, The Knife really did put on a show that was like the socialist version of "a communist Las Vegas," as band member Karin Dreijer described it in our recent interview about the inspirations behind the band's new album, Shaking the Habitual.

How the Knife is changing the definition of a rock-and-roll show by removing ego
Brandon Marshall

The set de-emphasized specific performers, though everyone got to shine in his or her own way. Even the singing wasn't done completely by core bandmembers Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer. And there was none of the typical "I'd like to introduce the band" sort of thing anywhere during the show. The act engaged the audience in a different way, however, including using a spoken-word poem to introduce "Ready to Lose" and an announcement that the Knife would dance for us -- all of the engagement coming from different bandmembers on stage. Everyone seemed to play drums or perform percussion at some point in the set, multiple people sang, and during the more dance-oriented sections, the members of the Knife assembled in circles or in two lines, confronting each other with gestures of productive engagement. In general, the band set an example, but it also fed off the sheer enthusiasm of the crowd. The fact that the band didn't set up anyone as an icon made this feat even more fascinating and powerful.

How the Knife is changing the definition of a rock-and-roll show by removing ego
Brandon Marshall

It wasn't a standard concert. Anyone going expecting a band in the traditional sense probably left disappointed -- although anyone who has paid attention to what this band has been doing since Silent Shout knew that it wasn't going to be the dance rock-ish/synth pop heard on some of Deep Cuts. It was a show designed to subvert the standard concert paradigm; in fact, so was the new album. Its music was written in a way that many people can play some simple elements, which are then bolstered by sampling and tracks when needed for the on-stage dance. It was more like a theatrical number where, in this case, the shared experience mattered far more than who was playing each note and what that person's status was.

 

How the Knife is changing the definition of a rock-and-roll show by removing ego
Brandon Marshall

It wasn't the kind of show where anyone could later admire the guitar skills, the singing prowess, the masterful drumming, the solid bass playing or even tasteful keyboard work. The focus remained on sharing an emotional experience, something that usually matters more in the memory of people who go to the show anyway over specific contributions to the sound.

The Knife opened the show with the beautifully brooding "Wrap Your Arms Around Me" and closed with the brighter "Silent Shout." it was a well-bookended performance all around, going from dark to light. Which was appropriate, given that Shannon Funchess told us before the final song that the festivities weren't over. DJ Ganesh would keep the dance party going for another hour afterward. The Knife left the stage, a chorus line Greek and otherwise, to let the people focus on each other.

How the Knife is changing the definition of a rock-and-roll show by removing ego
Brandon Marshall
How the Knife is changing the definition of a rock-and-roll show by removing ego
Brandon Marshall

Critic's Notebook

Bias: Can't claim to have checked too much into The Knife early on but definitely became a fan with Silent Shout.

Random Detail: Ran into Radio 1190 Local Shakedown host Amy Moore, Jacob Archuleta (formerly of Skully Mammoth), documentary filmmaker Chris Bagley, artist Katy Zimmerman, Johnny Wohlfahrt of nervesandgel, Titwrench maven Sarah Slater and Wind Does mastermind Luke James-Erickson at the show.

By the Way: Anyone that hasn't read Liv Strömquist's End Extreme Wealth should do so as it's the perfect companion/primer for what this show was about.

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