Photos: Mahir Hrustic
Since The Knife’s last album “Shaking the Habitual,” Karin’s Dreijer’s performance art hasn’t adhered to the conventional format of playing live. The tour for the album featured Sweden-native Karin and her brother Olof teaming up with a troupe of dancers to perform the album as choreography, rather than with real instruments. So when The Knife chose to disband following the album, it was up in the air if Dreijer would return to her solo project Fever Ray, which she hadn’t performed in almost seven years.
Returning with “Plunge” last year, Dreijer gave us an opus of artistic social commentary, alongside a genuine mystery. Prior to the release of “Plunge” in October 2017, there was no formal announcement – it simply arrived without warning. The music video for the first single, “To the Moon and Back,” revealed the album’s new stage personalities. One, a bald-headed urophiliac with a predilection for girls; the other a stoic blonde with an embalmed likeness to the White Walkers in Game of Thrones. But little did we know that the videos’ supporting characters were actually the personas that Dreijer would be taking on tour.
With heavily teased Instagram bios of Fever Ray’s touring members, Dreijer has formed a multi-cultural Spice Girls for 2018. The difference from 1996 being that Fever Ray and crew play instruments, allude to topical feminist themes in the lyrics, and are far more brazen with the simulated sex. This new image Dreijer is presenting seems welcomed by fans – and might just be the right flip of the coin from the spectral visage she chose to don while touring for the first album.
Opener Bunny Michael also borrowed from the theatrical. She began by speaking intrapersonal messages into a ringing landline on stage. Both as an artist and musician, Michael is known for her avocation of reaching the “Higher Self” and has been called Instagram’s “resident therapist.” The material from her new Afterlyfe EP featured blitzes of psychedelic rap which takes the flow of a kind of existential self-help guru. Michael is in the process of recording her full-length, and may even dethrone Peaches as the princess of smut-laced, sexually progressive electro-clash when it drops.
Fever Ray’s eventual entrance was easily mistakable for a female-centric WrestleMania. Each member’s persona was so well-costumed and groomed for the show that Dreijer willingly became second fiddle, only to pull our attention back to her grotesque facial affectations. Even more striking was the lengths she went to re-work each song to produce a fresh live feel. The main synth lead on “A Part of Us” was sped up and pumped with live percussion, making it irresistible not to move to. “When I Grow Up” was also envisioned with more engaging samples to lift the slower pace of the first album’s version.
The evening was not all upbeat bangers though. “Keep the Streets Empty for Me” retained the solemn feel of the original, and the enigmatic and political overtones continued on “This Country.” Its lyric, “Free abortions and clean water, destroy nuclear…” was particularly reflective of our current political climate. Dreijer may not voice her views in the media, but her music certainly allows us a glimpse inside her head, without argument or a need to cite “alternative facts.”
One of her claims is that the future is indeed female. And on “To the Moon and Back” – when the crowd heard the line, “I wanna run my fingers up your pussy” – Portland’s digits we’re quickly raised in the air. It was a great night for all, except for anyone with a narrow mind.