Sunday 12 February 2012

Niki and The Dove at Sebright Arms - 9 February 2012

Niki and The Dove (Photo: Andreas Wåhlström)

There comes a point when the growing sense of excitement that builds up in anticipation of the arrival of a band tips over into boredom and frustration as it becomes clear that the delay is not a tantalising tease but a sign of either total lack of regard or of backstage calamity.

So it is tonight.

Things had started brightly enough. This is a newly refurbished venue, deep in the bowels of East London. There is good food, locally brewed beers, a decent mixtape playing in the bar. All the nice things.

And yet the announced time for the doors to the performance area to open comes and goes and there is no sign of activity. The bar fills up with impatient people. After a very long wait we are allowed to file downstairs into a very small space.

There are commendable efforts to build an atmosphere. Everyone is handed a variety of glo-sticks and encouraged to wear them. Soon the room looks like a scene from Tron, a dark void illuminated by neon people.

We wait and wait.

At around ten fifteen Niki and The Dove take to the small stage. They are very apologetic about the delay but do not elaborate further.

Singer Malin Dahlström is accompanied by two musicians, one of them the other permanent band member Gustaf Karlöf . They alternately play keyboards or bang drums. Any band with two drummers is worthy of your attention.

It’s hard not to describe Niki and The Dove without reference to fellow Swedes The Knife. They’re incredibly Knifey. A plaintive, often electronically distorted vocal, sparse stabs of synth and thunderous drumming.

Malin writhes slowly and throws shapes with her hands. Knifey? There’s Bjork and Kate Bush in this too.

Some of the people I am with have not seen the band before. One of them asks “Is this all they do? Do they ever take off?” The answer is broadly, no. Niki and the Dove are almost permanently stuck in a holding pattern where there is the possibility that that they might suddenly shift up tempo, but they never actually do.

The single ‘DJ, Ease My Mind’ is played. It rather encapsulates the band – they are not asking for the DJ to get the party started or play a favourite song but rather to satisfy a minor philosophical niggle.

The band depart and the lights come on. They haven’t even played their best song ‘Under The Bridges’, presumably because of concerns over timing.

It’s an unsatisfactory conclusion to a rather unsatisfactory gig. Niki and the Dove are very good at what they do, but also seem very limited by it.

I set out across dark East London. The freezing rain is falling as sleet. I light my way with a glo-stick.

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