THE KNIFE, Roundhouse – Evening Standard, 9 May 2013

When is a gig not a gig? When Swedish electronica duo The Knife are undermining your preconceptions about what a live music experience should be — by Riverdancing in sparkly jumpsuits.

Their first London show since 2006 started impressively, with seven extra cowled figures accompanying central siblings Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer on arm-flailing percussion. A kind of rectangular electronic oboe provided what little melody there was among beats that were both primal and futuristic.

Musically, now that female-fronted electropop is everywhere, it was abandoned here in favour of frenzied industrial clanks and whirrs. The mighty, bludgeoning sound of their recent fourth album, Shaking the Habitual, loomed large as the performers shook through the smoke.

Then they started doing less and less. Embracing the artifice of the “live” electronic show, they stopped playing and singing altogether, a backing tape kicked in and they simply danced, mostly in sync.

It was playful, largely joyous, though when they turned inwards to each other and jiggled away it seemed like the audience’s entertainment was secondary to the concept. For most of Full of Fire’s nine minutes they stood still in a huddle. As one techno number boomed away they left the stage and let a pretty basic light show do the work.

The problem is that this kind of performance art is rarely as arresting as that which it attempts to debunk. If Britney or Beyoncé mime, they are slaughtered, yet the spectacle they provide while doing so is light years from the spinning and waving that went on here. The Knife’s comeback defied expectations, and was frequently fun, but mostly it felt like the joke was on us.