Their Shaking the Habitual tour will go down as one of 2013's most controversial. But The Knife shouldn't view that as some sort of victory. The Swedish brother-sister electronic duo have moved a considerable distance between the sublime synthpop of 2003's Deep Cuts and the experimentalism of their current album. And while Karin Dreijer-Andersson and Olof Andersson have always used striking visuals, it's clear tonight that the Venetian masks of the intermediary Silent Shout era were merely a stepping stone to something more extreme and, sadly, less satisfying.
The best claim that can be made for this show, executed with a collective called Sorkklubben, is that it "challenges preconceptions of what a concert is". Except it doesn't.
It starts reasonably well. Once the warm-up – an aerobics instructor – has piped down, nine cowled figures appear, like monks beamed in from a visiting space ark. They play, or "play", a light sabre on a log, a laser harp and futuristic maracas. Within three songs, however, they've ditched the hoods, dropped the "instruments" – along with any pretence of playing live – and begun prancing about in glittery masks to a backing track. And so it continues. Sometimes they stand in a huddle; sometimes they disappear. Sometimes there are half-baked projections, or uninspiring lights. I've seen acts on a hundredth of the budget making a better fist of performance art.
I'm no authenticist, but Karin Dreijer-Andersson has a voice that conveys tragedy and heartbreak like few others, and I want to hear it. I'm later told that some of the vocals, drums and percussion are live, but I'm sceptical. On "Ready to Lose", Karin sits at a keyboard and seems to be singing, but I sneak round the back where I can see that her keyboard is a hollow prop. Then we're back to the show, a bad Butlins troupe in Lycra and tinsel. As a piece of modern dance, it's barely adequate. As a Knife concert, it sucks.
Tell people you're going to a Chas & Dave (Concorde 2, Brighton ****) gig, and they smile. The reason, however, can vary. Sometimes, it's fondness at the memory of "Gertcha" or "Rabbit". Sometimes it's a condescending smirk.
But Chas Hodges and Dave Peacock are a fascinating phenomenon: the "novelty" act that refuses to die. (They've retired and unretired three times in recent years). Not only the guardians of a working-class London musical tradition, Chas & Dave are inventors of one, in the shape of "Rockney", their own style (and the name of their record label), which combined old-time East End pub sing-songs with American boogie-woogie. They'd never call it anything as pretentious as "fusion", but that's exactly what it is.
And they are, simply, terrific fun. Chas is the owner of a surprisingly potent rock'n'roll voice in the Noddy Holder envelope, and a fearsome pianist: his knuckles are a blur. Meanwhile, Dave is easily the match of (say) John McVie for musicianship, but wouldn't dream of being showy enough to prove it. They still draw a devoted flat-capped crowd of cockneys and mockneys: the Concorde 2 has to widen its doors to accommodate that big-elbowed, big-kneed walk they all do. And there's an insane pubstep "pie-and-mash-up" of "The Sideboard Song" with a Pendulum track, in which they express indifference as to whether 'ee comes round 'ere at 180bpm.
The peak is a deafening, arm-waving singalong to their biggest hit "Ain't No Pleasing You", a genuinely great rolling blues ballad which, were it written by a Fats Domino, would be venerated to the heavens by the cognoscenti.
One day, when they finally do give it a rest, we'll realise what a peculiarly wonderful thing they were. Until then, Chas & Dave concerts will still be raising smiles, for all the right reasons.
The Great Escape, seaside wristband-dash and music biz convention, brings a line-up including Bastille, Billy Bragg, Everything Everything, A*M*E, Chvrches, Deap Vally, Findlay, King Krule, Kodaline, The 1975, The Strypes and Tom Odell to various venues in Brighton (Thu to Sat).