Norwegian duo Kings of Convenience last released an album in 2009, but there's no sense of moving forward tonight – it's a comfy old jumper of a show, which at times could do with smartening up, but which swaddles committed fans (of which there are enough to sell-out this substantial venue) in a cosy embrace.
The show divides pretty neatly in half. First, Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe deliver hushed, delicate folk, with pretty fingerpicking on an acoustic guitar a-piece. Their voices are as full and thick as their requisite indie-man mops of hair. At their best, their voices fuzzy-felt together perfectly, as on the minor-keyed 'Cayman Islands' or 'Homesick', a Simon and Garfunkel-esque number where their harmonised lyrics could almost be self-referential: “I can't stop listening to the sound/of two soft voices blended in perfection/from the reels of this record that I've found.”
Kings of Convenience are still much loved in Britain, and 'I Don't Know What I Can Save You From' shows why: how could we not take to our hearts a pair who sing romance in such convoluted, and tea-based terms? “I realized that the one you were before/had changed into somebody/for whom I wouldn't mind to put the kettle on.”
But at other points, things go decidedly awry – there are genuine winces during 'My Ship Isn't Pretty' and 'Love is No Big Truth' as they go out of key. It feel under-rehearsed.
In the second half of the evening they step it up from moony bedroom musing to livelier stuff. An additional three band members join them, and it even gets a little funky with the addition of some groovesome bass.
Øye busts out some cutely dorky dance moves, but proves an effective crowd-raiser, leading us in comic falsetto singalongs on an extended version of 'Boat Behind', then acting out the lyrics of their biggest hit, 'I'd Rather Dance With You', which enchants the crowd. By the end of it, he's got people bopping and clapping double-time, “like they do in Spain.”
In case we were still in any danger of tagging them as melancholy Scandinavians, he tells us with a grin: “Life is full of terrible moments and this is not one of them.” He's right – there's a palpable joy at this old tune. But for all that, there's also a slight sense of coasting on affection: it's not a terribly impressive set either.