Kings of Convenience Live in Manila, March 31, 2010 April 3, 2010Posted by Richard Bolisay in Music.
Eirik happy with his guitar, Erlend dancing to Jens’ delight
Photo courtesy of Status >
The venue is perfect. The kind of privacy needed for a Kings of Convenience concert—something that NBC Tent provides with neither the feeling of being too isolated nor the frenzy of having too many moving heads in front—is delivered well by the organizers, for they, I suppose, are fans themselves. Empty the venue and what’s left is huge space: huge enough to welcome a thousand people. But the space feels more like a wedding reception, a jovial place without the discomfort of too much intimacy, nor lonely seclusion. People really came here to have fun.
Jens Lekman is already playing when we arrive (my free ticket courtesy of Ayn and Juno), and there are a number of people standing in groups near the stage, drinking beer, chatting, nodding their heads. The little I know of Jens, from Night Falls Over Kortedala which I last listened to in 2008, disappoints me to the point of groaning every time he starts another song whose title always eludes me. Time to pretend, as always, especially I didn’t have time to listen to the album again on my way to the concert. Not that I have to, of course.
Infectious is Jens’ energy as he performs. His female companion who does the percussion is attractive from afar, and the way she moves daintily, even she is a sight to behold. Several times Jens goes down the stage—is he running to one of the audience?—and goes back with renewed enthusiasm, singing another song. During a pause between songs he tells anecdotes about his visit in the Philippines. He also shares his gig last night at Saguijo, which according to him turned out very well. He is kinetic on stage, but we can’t help but argue—Ayn, Juno, and I, and also when I “chance upon” Dodo—whether he is Swedish or Norwegian, summoning other bands like The Radio Dept. and Kings of Convenience to facilitate reasoning, the nationality of Let The Right One In also becoming hazy all of a sudden, while in fact it’s everyone’s favorite film; and we decide that the better way to conclude the conversation, just to be safe, since we don’t have the benefit of Wikipedia with us, is to regard him simply as Scandinavian. Jens leaves the stage; us not the least baffled of his origin at the moment, happy as the night wears on.
The break feels longer than it seems to be. Erlend and Eirik may still be at the airport, waiting for their guitar-bags, munching on a sandwich for dinner. Or worse, they’re still in the hotel, stuck, lost their key, both their cellphones dead that contacting them is out of the question. You know, scenarios in Jack TV. But when people start making noise after an incredibly silent waiting, I can always tell from experience, that that noise is a good sign. The two walk on stage—who else will?—grab their respective guitars, and acknowledge the audience’s presence. Erlend and Eirik are not only greeted; they are embraced (well, of course, figuratively; and given the chance, they would also be kissed). Without any fuss they strum their guitars and open their mouths to sing—harmoniously, beautifully—to everyone’s delight. Identical thought balloons start to pop one by one: This is what we came here for.
There is no point detailing the setlist. They sing songs from their three albums, alternating familiar tracks with obscure ones (for me at least), which leaves me awfully guessing what their next song will be. They don’t seem to have a setlist, after all; they get cues from each other. Seeing them communicating, far from rehearsed but happy with how the evening is turning out, that’s when I realize one important thing: listening to records in private isn’t as close to attending live concerts. Some little details take form only in gigs: the way Erlend and Eirik stand in front of each other as they strum their guitars (a very Freudian act, I must admit), seriously and attentively; the way Erlend dances and enjoys himself on the piano (he surely provides the strangest humor of the night); the way the little game they play with us work surprisingly, the ooooohhs and aaaaaahhss between two separate groups, following their cues and sounding almost like them; the way Eirik, more than once, takes pictures of the audience with his little camera, which, upon his request for us to pose, we not only pose but also wave our hands in giddiness, as if we’d really be seen on the camera ten feet away, and no we don’t think he made us look stupid. Funny when Eirik mentions about taking another picture (again!) to show his kiddo “what exactly his father is doing”, I promise—I hear the sound of hearts breaking, too many of them. But these hearts are grateful—grateful in spite of the air-con turned off for the longest time (you’re in Manila, how dare you pull that trick on us?)—all grateful for the fulfillment of a wish. As for me, when the familiar first notes of “Cayman Islands” are strummed, that’s one wish down—and more is yet to come.
It’s ten minutes after ten and I feel sleepy, not sleepy-get-me-to-my-bed-right-now! but a little drowsy because the night is going so smooth and comfy like the next best thing to have is one’s bed to lie on while waiting for it to finish, knowing it soon will (“I’d Rather Dance With You” has already been sung). I keep noticing that Eirik is distractingly cute from afar, and at the back of my head someone’s whispering, so why the hell won’t you come near and see if he’s also distractingly cute up close? Shut up, no need. I’m all right here—not too far and not too near—and one more thing, I plan to push Dodo real hard when “Misread” starts to play because it’s his favorite Kings of Convenience song. (A few minutes later, mission accomplished!) Juno is taking pictures from the same spot, like 100 shots from one angle; and like me he doesn’t want to move closer to the stage too. See? The spot we’re in is the spot we would like to see ourselves as the evening ends. Sort of like a pact, or just plain laziness. (And I’d like to see if Dodo is doing anything naughty . . .)
And so it ends. Clamoring “More! More! More!” is downright predictable but fun so we clamor “More! More! More!” along with the crowd. To our expectation, they return, Eirik still spooning something from his plate. He seems tired and hungry but doesn’t show it. Erlend is dancing again, and recalling that Justin Timberlake was here several days ago, he sings a song about Justin Timberlake he claims to have been written by someone in Bergen or wherever, and the song is so hilarious it’s the only time the crowd roars in terrible laughter, what with Erlend’s drunk-like singing and the words rhyming effortlessly! I honestly almost come to believe, for a few pensive minutes, that it is the most rewarding song of the night, in a twisted way. But lo and behold! I am not going home without hearing it! I’ll be sick! (Oh, that’s a corny pun, I know) They play “Homesick” as their farewell song. Ayn scolds me for proclaiming that they really reserve the song last for me. “Homesick” is midway. This is no time for crying. The sound of many hands clapping, in earnest, and feet moving to one direction.
I’ll lose some sales and my boss won’t be happy,
but 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.
Riot on an empty street when the empty street is one’s heart. We leave the tent with our hearts full, hoping that the bookstore is still open to pick up our excess glee.
*With much thanks to Ayn for the ticket and the company; and to Megan and Andrea who didn’t make it to the concert—call me a vicar of some sort, but I’m writing this for you