It’s very rare to find two Norwegian schoolchildren who began their musical adventures through the forum of rap to go on to form a guitar music folk duo whose debut album title Quiet Is the New Loud would lend its name to a slight movement of musicians in the pop underground which included Turin Breaks.
Apart from lending itself to a musical movement, Quiet Is the New Loud was special for many other reasons, including the first musical writing project where they wrote songs in English, topping the Norwegian charts and entering the UK top 100. Whilst Kings of Convenience LP’s are few and far between (they only released their fourth this year after a 12-year hiatus); Erlend Øye (who is taller sporting spectacles) and Eirik Glambek Bøe have always collaborated with each other on numerous projects, including The Whitest Boy Alive. Absence certainly made their fans’ hearts grow fonder as their latest LP, Peace or Love, earned them their highest UK chart position and entered the top five in their native Norway.
As the packed audience entered the Royal Festival Hall, they could see two chairs and four acoustic guitars. There would be no backing singers or musicians. The audience appeared to overlook this as the duo entered the stage as they were drawn to a shoeless Øye who was sporting mismatched socks. With the success of the new LP Peace or Love, “Comb My Hair” and “Ask for Help” from this LP opened the set.
Despite the impressive reception and the set is best described as decibels of extremes with Kings of Convenience playing quietly and the audience applause loudly; neither Øye nor Bøe were satisfied with the sound, which prompted Øye to ask the sound engineers for changes in his native Norwegian tongue. Whilst it was hard to determine the changes, the overall sound sharpened and became more tuned as Kings of Convenience began playing “Cayman Islands” from their 2004 sophomore effort Riot on an Empty Street.
Along with sound changes came improved lighting changes. There were no props or visuals (unlike with Mew) or additional musicians; one couldn’t help but be drawn to the vast expansive void of utilised space. This problem was rectified as a bright circle focused on the duo at the centre stage and blacked out the remainder of the stage. Kings of Convenience did what any self-respecting folk duos would do: tell stories as the lights changed. Øye explained how a day before this gig, his guitar arrived overseas damaged, thankfully he was able to take his guitar to Kingston Upon Thames, where a guy called Charlie resurrected the delightfully cacophonous guitar. Øye also told the sadness of a guitar that arrived broken beyond repair in 2007 when he was touring in Hong Kong. Bøe, now living in Berlin, told how he randomly met a British musician in his local coffee shop and found that he was part of the London Philharmonic Orchestra who performed at the Festival hall the previous evening. As far as the Festival Hall was concerned, Øye and Bøe rocked as raconteurs.
Despite restricting themselves solely to electro-acoustic guitars, with Øye leading with his unique style of dancing (which he initially demonstrated in the “I’d Rather Dance with You” promotional video), the duo got the audience to stand up and clap throughout the remainder of the set. Some danced too. The duo was able to get the audience more active for the more upbeat songs, which included drum beats on the studio recordings on their Peace or Love LP; a live injection of a drum machine, piano, xylophone or melodica would have been welcomed. However, for the strictly acoustic and string songs, the duo was right to strip them down, allowing the emotive, philosophical lyrical sensitivity to be experienced by the Festival Hall. This is highly impressive considering English is not their first language, and they only began writing songs with English lyrics in adulthood.
You know an LP has been well received when a remix of that LP is subsequently released. Their debut Quiet Is the New Loud was followed up by Versus, which contained remixes by Ladytron and Röyksopp. Therefore, it was surprising that only one song from their debut, “I Don’t Know What I Can Save You From”, was played. Despite this, whether it is because the duo has previously lived in the UK at different locations, they knew the British audience well, and their British fans will always welcome them back with open arms and allow Kings of Convenience to call the UK their home.
Comb My Hair
Ask for Help
I Don’t Know What I Can Save You From
Love Is a Lonely Thing
I’d Rather Dance With You