Eloquent, free, meaningful, effortless. These are 4 words that could be used to describe Kings Of Convenience, and they'd all be very true and fair descriptions, but still not enough to completely convey seeing them perform live in concert.
Their show at the Barbican Hall in London tonight was capable of providing lifelong memories for any fan who attended, new or old, casual or indeed fanatic. But it was potentially this way before they even took the stage. You see, KoC produce albums that are so vivid, one need not see them live in their lifetime to feel satisfied.
That said, it was hands down the best 60 quid I've spent in my time in England. Eirik and Erlend played their acoustic guitars with the experience of aging bluesman. I got a quick reminder of how well their separate arrangements are matched to provide that unique, overall sound. Their voices too, meld in a way that is only comparable to Simon and Garfunkel, their self-professed heroes - "two soft voices, blended in perfection", their lyric an obvious nod to the New York duo in their track, Homesick. I can assuredly say that pulling off that sound live and flawlessly is indeed worthy of that comparison.
It's at this point that Beth says how she's reminded of home. All those country drives and holidays where the Kings' CD's have accompanied us. The Kings' music goes with you, it becomes a part of the scenery and that cerebral exchange. How apt that in under a week, we make our way home. And throughout the night I realise KoC are one of the few groups that I can equally enjoy with my Beth, and that I'm so glad she was experiencing this show with me.
While sipping red wine, Beth and I were very much treated to a great selection of songs, from their debut Quiet Is The New Loud to some favourites from Riot On An Empty Street and a generous dose of the yet-to-be-released-to-UK-fans (even-though-the-rest-of-Europe-has-enjoyed-it-for-3-weeks - ARRRRRGHHHH!!!!!) new album, Declaration Of Dependence. The new songs somehow weren't that new. New titles, new lyrics, some new playing styles but it was so clearly Kings, so of course it should sound like that. What else did I expect? Well, nothing less that's for sure, but my expectations were disintegrated. It's the Kings sound, but more. How is it that they continue to do this and I'm not tired of it?
The sound delivery at the Barbican was simply some of the best I've ever heard in my life. Accurate, faithfull amplification of the guitars that were perhaps 30m ahead of my seat, clear yet subtle and fitting to the material.
Eventually joined by fellow Bergen musicians on double bass and violin, our Kings stepped 3 rungs up the ladder of fun and really let loose, they had us up on our feet through numerous numbers and taking over the chorus of just as many. The freedom that Erlend expresses through his dance and enthusiasm during the up beat songs is infectious, yet the sincerity of their most moving songs such as Cayman Islands and 24-25 is far from misread. I didn't mind showing genuine emotion for these songs, because they match any of the oldest stuff I cut my teeth on and continue to polish them with. For mine, KoC sit with S&G, Stevens, Lennon/McCartney, Waters/Gilmour, Dylan and Knopfler. Yes, I mean it.
iPhones, wif-fi, government corruption and the increase of debt-inducing warfare all pale in importance during the 95 minutes our non-fashionable heroes offer of themselves. One feels it's ok to still hope, to still feel like there is a place that is true and heartfelt and that you can share in that place, unashamedly. That when you play those CD's again, you know these guys are doing it for all the right reasons, and that you'd most happily put down the squids to own a proper, uncompressed copy of their latest efforts.
The finale came as an encore for being up and happy (I'd Rather Dance With You) and an encore for soaking up that last bit of Kings' melancholy (Cayman Islands) to which the 1000 strong Barbican faithfull applauded gratefully and passionately.
I would go again, and again and again, if only they would play that often. 3 albums together in 8 years is a shocking strike rate for a group in the naughties, but actually, I'm not in the slightest bit annoyed. Because each of those albums are pure gems, not made to be consumed over a medium Quarter Pounder meal, but rather a late Sunday breakfast, in the sun, with your girl by your side and in your heart. I wonder if they do weddings...?