Published Jun 09, 2010Norway's most popular folk pop duo, Kings of Convenience (aka Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe), do their research research. The twosome showed up at the Phoenix with an array of local and national allusions, from Kensington Market to the McGarrigle sisters. They also brought an unexpected bevy of accent-abetted jokes, a teetotal agenda, and a vaguely fascist list of restrictions and recommendations.
Based on acoustic guitars and two-part harmonies, the pair's gossamer songs call for quiet. Thus, they've been encouraging venues to close bars during their sets — the Phoenix didn't oblige — and punters to refrain from taking photos, at least during the first 30 minutes. To add levity to an inherently staid affair, jokes and witty anecdotes abounded.
Opening with bossa-nova-influenced "My Ship Isn't Pretty," the band duelled with speaker buzzing, bottle opening and BlackBerry ringing. While the buzz would never disappear, the background noise would mostly fade, letting acoustic plucks, arpeggios and soft singing take the fore.
"Homesick," "Cayman Islands" and "Mrs. Cold" best mined the setup, creating pleasant, occasionally beautiful moments. Still, a pair of acoustic guitars and a brief piano (on "Singing Softly to Me") can only go so far. Therefore, the tandem gradually upped the ratio of hit-and-miss audience participation, which amounted to more repeat-after-me songs than summer-camp singalongs.
To close regulation time, the combo brought out hirsute openers, Franklin for Short, to funk up a selection of tracks, including a vigorous, dance-party-spawning "Rule My World." Its stomping bass drum provided a refreshing balm for a musically sober set yet further highlighted the evening's incongruence.
Ideally crafted for a sit-down theatre, Kings of Convenience's amiable set was poorly suited to the Phoenix's club-like atmosphere. Regardless, humour and moments of prettiness largely helped salvage the show.