The Knife At Kool Haus
Notoriously eccentric Swedish electronica duo, The Knife, performed their first ever concert in Toronto on Friday, April 25th at the Kool Haus. The last time they toured was back in 2006 in support of their sophomore album Silent Shout and now after a 7-year hiatus they are back with a new album and a new tour entitled Shaking the Habitual.
Shaking the Habitual however is a much different experience than Silent Shout so fans who were expecting a rehash of that era were probably pretty let down with what they saw on Friday night. Silent Shout was promoted as an “audio-visual” experience with Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer, The Knife’s two core members, performing by themselves on stage with masks and makeup and an impressive array of laser effects and psychedelic visuals accompanying them as a backdrop. On the Shaking the Habitual tour it seems as though they have decided to go in the completely opposite direction. Instead of Andersson and Dreijer performing alone and being the focal points of the stage, they are joined by at least a dozen other musicians and dancers and never really seem to explicitly stand out amongst any of them. Ironically enough, through this method, The Knife have managed to make themselves even more unidentifiable, despite the fact that they are no longer obscuring their appearance by wearing masks or makeup. Unless you already knew beforehand what they looked like, you might have a really hard time picking them out and identifying them on stage. But that was probably the point. This is, after all, a band that loves to challenge our expectations.
Poetry & Electronica, celebrating feminist leanings and queer theory with The Knife
Another noteworthy thing to point out about Shaking the Habitual is just how political it is compared to their earlier material. The Knife have always hinted at their fairly liberal and feminist leanings but never has it been more apparent than during this era, with several songs from the album being informed by feminist and queer theory. Midway through the performance on Friday night, a female backup dancer (who has been misidentified by some other reviewers as Karin Dreijer Andersson herself) took center stage and recited a poem entitled “I Want a Body” which conveyed a powerful, if somewhat irreverent, message for gender equality.
Reactions to the Shaking the Habitual tour have been mixed, with some people claiming that The Knife are now just being weird for the sake of being weird and doing their best to try to alienate their audience, while others seem to think that they have achieved both musical and creative perfection. Either way, there is no doubt that The Knife is a group that is interested in always evolving their sound and performance style and challenging their listeners in the process.