Thursday 27 November 2008

I'm From Barcelona / Soko at Scala 25 Nov 2009

I'm From Barcelona sing - Soko plays pic by Crazybobbles at Flickr

There are two girls on stage having a hysterical fit of the giggles. This is tiny but exuberant singer Soko and her accompanist. The first song ‘I Think I’m Pregnant’ is thus a hoot, interrupted by constant corpsing. “I’m not drunk…I’ve eaten too much food!” yelps the French girl.

Soko is serious but zany in much the same way that Bjork is – there are moments of great beauty and simplicity in her set, but also a runaway sense of anarchy and mischief making. She roams across the stage set up for the headliners and bashes about on the drums. At one stage she stops the show to plead with ‘Bob’ to come up and do a pre-arranged number with her. When the crowd disgorges someone, Soko is nonplussed – it’s the Wrong Bob. Wrong Bob seems fairly alarmed too.

Some of the songs are so twee that they could rot your teeth. At one point Soko invites most of I’m From Barcelona onstage to improvise meowing noises through a jingle called ‘Baby Cat’. It’s all great fun but it depends rather on your tolerance for winsome French cutesiness. Watching Soko in action is like watching ‘Amelie- The Musical’.

Soko is having such a great time bouncing and bawling along that she spends most of the rest of the evening onstage lending her charms to the multitudinous Swedes that comprise I’m From Barcelona.

This ensemble have around a dozen members tonight, including a brass section, a cluster of guitars, drums and keyboards and multiple singers. They are led by the dishevelled and rakish Emmaneul, looking for all the world like Roy Wood, or for our younger readers, Russell Brand.

This evening the band are plugging their new album “Who Killed Harry Houdini?” and the beginning of the set is culled from this work. Which is kind of a pity because although the songs definitely work live –with a band this size going full pelt almost anything is going to sound impressive – they lack the sheer abandoned joi de vivre of their earlier tunes.

Around half way through set a girl who is having her birthday today is invited to join the band onstage. They make an unanswered plea for Wrong Bob to make himself known again. This is the prelude for a medley of songs (starting with 'Treehouse') and the unleashing of a swirling barrage of huge red balloons and confetti that engulfs the band and audience for the rest of the night. It’s quite a spectacle and makes the venue look like a cartoon representation of the human blood stream.

The next ten minutes is a non-stop party, with balloons and streamers flying in all directions. I’m From Barcelona eventually bring matters to a head with a grand sing-along of their eponymous signature tune.

The only problem being that, as it is impossible to top this moment, it just becomes more and more extended as the set continues. Everything is still enormously entertaining, but they’ve peaked too early.

Emmanuel and Soko do a duet and the evening ends as it began with their song ‘Rufus’.

It’s been a strange evening in which the support act has managed to make it appear as if the headliners are an adjunct to her own crazy antics. That this works so well is a testament to Soko’s powers of beguilement. Vive la France!

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