Iceage The Cobalt, Vancouver BC, June 28

Iceage The Cobalt, Vancouver BC, June 28
Photo: Amy Ray
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Word of the antics caused by Denmark's punk outfit Iceage tends to precede them. Almost everyone I talked to before the show seemed to have something to say about the foursome, whether it was the bloodied photos of "victims" of their shows they shared on their blog, or the branded switchblades they sold as merch while on tour. Despite all that, their show in Vancouver at the Cobalt skimped on drama in favour of a cold but honest performance.

Lead singer Elias Rønnenfelt is the most unsettling presence of the four Danes. Last to appear on stage, he looked down at the audience with a swaggering air, somewhere between loathing and intoxicated self-pity. Beginning with a lengthy tirade of self-deprecating satire under the title "On My Fingers" — the opening cut from their latest album, Plowing into the Field of Love — Rønnenfelt threw blank gazes in between unpredictable leaps onto the stage's front edges, challenging the highly receptive bodies under him.
 
Although the band's presence could easily be mistaken for sullen posturing, it created a context in which their lyrics, laden with themes of detachment, inadequacy and despair, could be delivered with a sincerity that was almost uplifting. In the moments in which the barked-out words were drowned in walls of sound, Rønnenfelt's restless body language kept relaying the message.
 
Instrumentally, Iceage were a rarity in their genre, balancing feverish aural assaults with dynamic progressions in their compositions. Dressed in the colours and spirit of Johnny Cash, guitarist Johan Weith brought his Telecaster to life with a nod to the style of Luther Perkins, the man better known as "the man behind the man in black." His rhythmic picking added a driving backbone to the sparse melodies of the faux-country barn-burner "The Lord's Favourite."

In the spaces between the all-in engagement of their songs, the Danes left the audience in cold silence, showing no inclination to banter. After finishing their last song, the four men walked off after a moment's hesitation, without saying anything besides a muttered "bye." Calls for an encore fell on deaf ears, and the only closing treat the dazed, sweaty crowd got was the sobering rush of cool air from the night coming in through the door.