Whitest Boy Alive
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Wander into the rammed to the gills Electric Ballroom tonight and you might wonder if you’ve accidentally gained access to some party created purely for the beautiful people of Camden via northern Europe.
Incredibly well groomed Scando boys rub shoulders with cute German girls, alongside a harem of North London’s most culturally bijou. Hell, even a Queen of Noize is here, anointing it either a glitterati occasion or perhaps a stylistic misnomer.
But then, given Erlend Øye’s lengthening musical CV, perhaps it shouldn't be so surprising. Always immaculately turned out sonically, both Øye’s first band Kings of Convenience and his solo work, not to mention his fleeting über melodic contribution to Royksopp, garnered sizeable fanbases on a truly pan-global scale. As if to prove that, Erlend announces that tonight is the four-piece’s first show since a gig in Mexico City late last year. You always got the impression that Øye is the anthropological sort.
Where The Whitest Boy Alive differs from the previous forms Erlend has chosen is in performance and musicianship; he is seemingly on a singular mission to reclaim the notions of an incredibly tight, telepathically entwined group from the claws of bad bar-room bands and the Performance Channel. The results are undeniably impressive, creating a sort of polite intense euphoria you'd be hard pushed to match outside of a particularly lounge-core Radiohead show. All this may sound distinctly disdainful, but be assured, it’s not. With his assembled four-piece Øye has created an act that can in turns make a crowd swoon magnificently, or uncontrollably move their feet at will. It’s all formed with sweetness, pathos and touching humour. Halfway through the show, the gangling frontman regales the crowd with a tale of how, a decade ago, he used to work at Camden Market, just next door, trying to make ends meet and commenting that at the time he’d never be able to afford a gig like this – even with tickets at an entirely reasonable £8.50. It’s a sweetly humanist tale and it sees the crowd eating out of his palm.
Highlights tonight include the tight, ascending-riff funk of ‘Above You’, the taut yet smoothly anthemic pop of ‘Burning’ and both this evening’s and the record’s centrepiece song, the stripped down yearning power-ballad-with-humility that is_ ‘Don’t Give Up’_. Its gorgeous stuff.
You only hope that Erlend’s muse doesn’t lead him away from this set up as quickly as it has others. Seemingly never musically satisfied or able to stand in one sonic place for long, he’d do well to dwell in this space longer – this particular musical vehicle suits him very well.
Photos: Helen Boast
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