The Knife review – farewell to the feelgood thunderers

Brixton Academy, London
The Scandinavian electropop pioneers bow out with a theatrical show that gleefully blends dance music with identity politics

The Knife were always going to go out with a bang. In May 2013, the Swedish electropop duo, comprised of siblings Karin Dreijer Anderson and Olof Dreijer, played their first London show since 2006. They were in the process of promoting album Shaking the Habitual, a jarring and dissonant study of gender, ethnicity, class and various ‘isms’. And now, as they gear up to “close down” for good, this sold-out gig is one of their last.

It’s a farewell show teeming with cathartic release, almost becoming an earnest, feelgood rave. Fans arrive ready to experience one last hurrah with the experimental Swedes, as all 11 members of the live band appear in matching metallic jumpsuits. As has been the case since the Shaking the Habitual tour first kicked off, this “band” doesn’t necessarily play every song live – and feels more like a theatre troupe.

At first glance, two performers seem to be playing the drums when opener Wrap Your Arms Around Me thunders into its pulsing beat, but it soon becomes clear that the “drummer” standing centre stage is miming. Throughout the set, in keeping with the tongue-in-cheek theatrics that have become a staple in the Dreijers’ public appearances, the band oscillate back and forth between live performance and unbridled dance routines set to backing tracks, confusing some fans and visibly thrilling others.

Whether performing live or not, they know how to put on a show. Like friend and past collaborator Planningtorock, the Knife turn their set into a gleeful clash between dance music and progressive identity politics. Clearly, both the feminist theory class that Olof took at Stockholm University and the queer theory in which Karin immersed herself have left an indelible mark on the band. From their gender-neutral costumes to the impassioned a cappella reading of Jess Arnets’ Collective Body Possum poem after Full of Fire, their message on loving oneself is clear: they want to leave their fans dancing feverishly, while feeling empowered and united. All hail their euphoric, sweaty goodbye.

  • This review was edited on 7 November 2014. It originally referred to Olof Dreijer as Anderson.


Tshepo Mokoena

The GuardianTramp

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