Why Manchester is the new creative epicentre of neo-soul and hip-hop
Text: Steph Kretowicz
Photography: Aoise Tutty
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What did I expect? The Knife, doing something conventional like appearing on stage, singing some songs, tossing out some congratulatory “thank yous” to the best crowd they’d ever had and maybe even signing some autographs?
No: these are the people that sent the Guerilla Girls to collect their Grammis, insisted on conducting interviews in Venetian masks and employed a feminist porn filmmaker to make their first music video in six years. It wouldn’t be The Knife if the rumours and conjecture weren’t flowing thick and fast throughout their performance: Is this a joke? Surely, they can’t actually think those costumes work. Are they even here? How would I know? There are two flaxen-haired figures in the orgy before me, but not all Swedes are blonde, and all we’ve got to go on from the press are the back of their bewigged heads and a children’s football team wearing masks of what one might assume are photos of Karin Dreijer-Andersson and Olof Dreijer’s real faces.
In a 14-year career, this is the Swedish duo’s second tour ever and they’ve just released one of the most divisive double-edged albums of 2013 so far. So am I really surprised that I’m watching a troupe of sparkling strangers doing interpretive dance to the fuming demonstration of Full of Fire; pretending to play a keyless piano and beat-less drums to a backing track of ‘Shaking the Habitual‘’s angry sloganeering, born from a fanatical nosedive into feminist theory?
Four of these performers are singing passionately into a microphone, while sounding remarkably like Shannon Funchess at one point, a man (that I secretly think is Olof) sounding identical to Karen Dreijer-Andersson at another. No one else seems to care what’s going on as I struggle to avoid getting hit by the convulsing, fluoro-covered crowd around me, mirroring the demented Bacchanalia on stage, and they also seem entirely unperturbed by the lengthy intervals of nothing going on stage at all.
A rare concession to active crowd-pleasing comes in a pounding cut-up of their best track ever, Silent Shout, before everyone frolics off stage and DJ Hannah Holland begins. The point at which that switch actually happens is unclear – a reflection of everything The Knife seems to stand for.