Show Review: The Knife At Kool Haus

By Emma Doerksen

Seven years after releasing their album Silent Shout, The Knife continues to test the limits of pop music and challenge their audience, this time with an album grounded on a set of political and sexual ideologies. This concert showed Toronto that The Knife is not only able to shake up the habitual way of making music, but they can also give a performance that will go against all your expectations and knock you off your feet.

Kool Haus suited The Knife well, allowing them to put on an ambitious light show while also allowing their highly choreographed performance to be visible to people at the back of the room. A massive disco ball was strung from the ceiling, casting whirring lights around the space and setting the mood of the show coupled with fantastic sound quality.

The Knife had no opening act, but instead, a session of DEEP Aerobics, a self-described “communal/political/conceptual/imaginational workout experience […] for anyone who has ever had any interest in combining the joie de vivre that is the vigorous bouncing of one’s anatomical/spiritual/energetic molecules with the existential absurdity that is living in a world/country/economic system of injustice, war-mongering, and cultural ineptitude.” As strange as it sounds, this was the best “pump-up” tactic I have ever seen before a show. By the end of it, even the most hesitant audience members seemed to be having a great time. It also got people in the right frame of mind to take in all that The Knife wanted to get across, as the entire audience was made to shout in unison, “I am man, I am woman, I am both, I am neither.”

A large dance crew accompanied The Knife for this tour. The duo, consisting of brother-sister wonderchildren Olof and Karin Dreijer, were shrouded in mist with only their silhouettes visible. With a set up of four standing drums, they began performing “Wrap Your Arms Around Me.” They worked their way through the setlist that was mainly focused on new material, but also had a number of tracks from other albums.

Halfway through the set, one of the members of the dance crew performed a monologue that conveyed some of The Knife’s ideologies. This edgy interlude might have caught some people off guard, but it was done at the peak of the show so as not to stifle the audience’s energy. If anything, it amplified it. Despite the political undercurrent, the show was easy to enjoy for any person ready to dance and be transported to the world of The Knife.

The Knife at Kool Haus

The Knife at the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival

If there is one thing The Knife does expertly, it’s that they can control an audience. Their energy is contagious, an impressive feat as it is often difficult for electronic musicians to give dynamic performances. The dance crew and percussion set up allowed The Knife to keep the energy alive throughout the show to the end of the setlist. The percussion set up ensured that much of the music was done live: they had a set up of long plastic tubes, standing drums, and tambourines that were used especially in tracks such as “Without You My Life Would Be Boring” and “Full Of Fire.” There was no shortage of visual stimulation either, with the crew adorned in glitter from head to toe and a stage decorated with a variety of neon, geometric shapes.

By the time the strobe light, bass-pounding finale of “Stay Out Here” and “Silent Shout” arrived, much of the audience was sweaty and exhausted. This concert proved that the Knife puts on the kind of show you shouldn’t count on attending passively. They give a lot to their audience, and expect a lot in return.

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