Niki And The Dove at the Triple Rock, 1/19/13
Niki And The Dove
With Vacationer and Royal Canoe
Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis
January 19, 2013
Leave it to a couple of Swedes (and perhaps the intense cold outside) to get a Minneapolis crowd dancing. The Stockholm electro-pop duo Niki And The Dove made their first local headlining performance a memorable one, delivering an effervescent 65-minute set that drew mainly from their intoxicating full-length debut, Instinct. The enthralling group had most of the crowd packed in front of the stage dancing both in time to the beat as well as in an effort to simply keep warm on the frigid winter night. Vocalist Malin Dahlström and electronic virtuoso Gustaf Karlöf heated things up in their own right with their distinct style of buoyant, mystical pop, in addition to their natural Swedish charm and engaging stage presence which easily won over the Saturday night crowd.
Dahlström and Karlöf took to the stage holding a flowery headdress, a silver, sparkly tambourine, and a miniature disco ball, which served clear notice to any unsuspecting audience members that the band was bringing a Swedish-style music party to the West Bank club. As the duo settled in on stage, Karlöf dialed in a long, ominous intro that slowly blossomed into a glorious version of "Mother Protect" that got the set started with a flash. Dahlström's deep, sonorous vocals soared as the song took flight, with Malin even making sweeping bird-like gestures with her hands and arms as the opening song drew to a dramatic close.
The band eased into their next track, "All This Youth," which is an older song that the duo are just now reworking back into their live shows. That number, and most of the set, actually, contained moody electronic echoes of their Swedish brethren the Knife and Fever Ray, with the group's inspired performance removing much of the polished gloss of their studio recordings, as their live sound took on a dramatic, modern edge. After remarking how pleased she was to see so many glowing bracelets and necklaces in the crowd, Dahlström got everyone moving with the dynamic pulse of the anthemic "Somebody," which proved to be as catchy and danceable as any of Robyn's big hits.
But rather than giving themselves up entirely to their euphoric pop tendencies, Niki and the Dove then got experimental and, frankly, a bit weird. They transitioned into an untitled electronic track that sounded like Controversy-era Prince, as Dahlström's warped vocals blended with the innovative din Karlöf was generating. As the avant-garde number wound down, Dahlström put on her flower-covered headdress and some neon-colored rings, which only added to the overt theatricality of their performance of "Last Night," which took on an operatic, Kabuki-esque appearance as Malin danced dramatically in time to the swelling beat, bringing out red and green fans to playfully cool off the audience as the song drew to an elegant close.
"Hello Minneapolis, it's so nice to be here again," Karlöf said warmly. "In Sweden, Minneapolis is a mystical, magical city, and a place we all aspire to go to. We'll remember tonight all of our lives." Following that flattering praise, the band launched into an expansive, tension-filled version of "The Gentle Roar" which proved to be one of the night's clear highlights. The duo's performance was so brazen and unabashed, presenting a much different (and welcome) musical contrast to Swedish musicians that are frequently restrained and reserved.
The walls then began to rumble with the brooding bass line of "DJ, Ease My Mind," and the duo delivered a splendid, towering version of the song that started it all for them. It was a magnetic moment, as both the band and the crowd lost themselves in the uplifting spirit of the song. Karlöf again addressed the audience in his delightful Swedish accent, introducing the next number by saying, "This song is about traveling the world, and it's about not being the same after the trip is done," before the band launched into a jubilant version of "The Drummer." The duo broke the song down toward the end, dissolving the beat into protracted electronic dissonance, before the crowd began clapping along to what was left of the rhythm. The duo then brought back the massive chorus one last time, before leaving the stage to a rousing and well-earned ovation.
The encore proved to be brief (with the group sadly forgoing their dynamic single, "The Fox") but highly satisfying, as Dahlström modestly said, "We've got one more for you. Thank you for letting us do another one." And, as the crowd waved their hands in time to the slowly-building beat of their closing number, Malin seemed to be genuinely taken aback by the warm reception they were getting. "Thank you so much. You are so sweet." But then she went back to enthralling us all with a euphoric version of "Tomorrow" that truly brought Niki And The Dove's triumphant set to an exhilarating end, giving everyone in the crowd one last time to get the blood flowing before we had to head back out into the arctic winter night that awaited us.
Personal Bias: While I've thoroughly enjoyed Niki And The Dove's studio recordings, this was my first time seeing them perform (having sadly missed their set opening for Miike Snow at First Ave back in October). I was pleased to find that their glossy, upbeat songs take on a welcomed depth and an ominous edge to them in a live setting.
The Crowd: Filled with people brave enough to fight their way through the cold in order to see one of Sweden's hottest musical exports. It was definitely worth the effort.
Overheard In The Crowd: "I don't know what I was expecting tonight, but it wasn't THIS!"
Random Notebook Dump: The Philadelphia quartet Vacationer delivered an joyous, engaging opening set that truly got the crowd nice and warmed up for the headliners. Their blissful, bouncy pop songs rang true in the club, as the large crowd who showed up early were rewarded with a good sampling of the group's debut full-length, Gone. Frontman Kenny Vasoli (formerly of the Starting Line) led the band through excellent renditions of "Great Love," "Trip," and a fresh reworking of Dom's "Jesus" that proved to be one of many standouts of Vacationer's stellar opening set.
All This Youth
The Gentle Roar
DJ, Ease My Mind