Live: Scandinavians do it with their backs to the audience

WHALE IMPROV THEATRE LONDON
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The Independent Culture
FROM THE beginning of their startlingly brief set, the Swedish outfit Whale showed a wilful disregard for the conventions of live performance. Since their winsome opening track, "Crying at Airports", required only the presence of the singer Cia Sorro and the drummer Jorgen Wall, the remaining members of the band evidently deemed it unnecessary to grace the stage.

It was only after a protracted silence at the end of the song that they were jolted into action. As they launched into their incendiary 1994 hit, "Hobo Humpin' Slobo Babe", the two guitarists and the bassist played with their backs to the audience and absorbed themselves in a game of oneupmanship over who could strike the silliest poses.

That's not to say that Whale weren't entertaining. Judging by the frisky dancing in front of the stage, it seemed that their eccentricity had seeped into the audience's psyche. But they appeared to be performing as much for each other as for the punters, and you could imagine similar mischief going on in the privacy of their own studio.

Sorro had a head start in the quest for kookiness; her wild eyes, flashing teeth and unruly hair afforded an air of dementia, though she was softened by her mellifluous vocals. Desperate not to be ignored, the drummer stood on his stool during "Two Chord Song" and played with his back to the drums. But both Sorro and Wall were eclipsed by the high jinks of the moustached guitarist, Henrik Schyffert, who, for the duration of "Deliver the Juice" played with his guitar around his ankles and his buttocks facing the audience as if inviting them to look and admire. He later expressed a desire to "pay tribute to the English infrastructure that has allowed us to be here", and announced "Actually, we're Finnish! Hurr, hurr, hurr." A joke, it seems, that is specific to Scandinavians.

In spite of the prevailing mood of silliness, Whale's music proved as dynamic as their stage theatrics and displayed the same crooked humour. They veered from furious, shouty punk to light-hearted pop, and combined throbbing guitars, stomping drums and dance-inflected samples with melodies that seemed far too sweet for such an unruly bunch.

But best of all was their palpable insanity. Whale looked more than ready to live by the motto expressed in the title of their shamefully overlooked album, All Disco Dance must End in Broken Bones.

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