Driving around Brooklyn with Fever Ray’s most recent album, Radical Romantics, at full volume transforms the frustration at double-parked cars and traffic into a sensual experience. But navigating the crowds at their sold-out show at Terminal 5 this past Wednesday was a bit more aggressively sensual than I might’ve wanted…a lot of packed-in bodies, most of them nearly a foot taller than me (I’m way fucking short). A path would open toward the stage and I would try to shimmy through, sometimes successfully, trying to remember that during the isolation of the pandemic I longed for sweaty clubs stuffed full of revelers. The crowd pressing in around me, too, was for the most part joyously queer and having a great fucking time. So hey, I took a deep breath and swayed with the multitudes, as the hypnotizing spectacle of Fever Ray (aka Karin Dreijer of The Knife) washed over us all.
But before Fever Ray, the hilarious, outrageous, trashy and wildly over the top performer Christeene—who describes herself as a “drag terrorist” and who we also declared a “DIY nightmare fashionista” at her album release show few months ago (read our coverage)—lovingly pummeled the gathering audience with her signature mix of flirtatious insults (“it’s a lunar eclipse for all you astrology shitheads” being a particular highlight), high-energy synth-punk-drag-fabulosity, and graphic lyrics about “shoving shit up your ass.” Her synth player glittered in a jacket of green sequins and spangles; her sax player sported a wild pair of shades while dancing all over; and Christeene worked it in a layered and tattered leotard/bodysuit number that she progressively removed bits of as the set wore on. All three of them looked fantastic and shook Terminal 5 with a delicious who-gives-a-fuck energy, and before her last song, she gave the audience one final irreverent shout out: “All you fuckin’ shitheads showed the fuck up tonight, thank you!” leaving with the parting “Good luck getting home you shitbags!”
Christeene at Terminal 5 (photo by Kate Hoos)
Fever Ray’s set began with the flames of an old-timey gaslight streetlamp flickering on stage. On platforms upstage, their percussionist and synth player vamped on the opening section of “What They Call Us” as two backing vocalists slinked out, taking their positions at microphones on either side of the stage. Finally, Fever Ray materialized in the haze and walked calmly toward the audience, beginning to sing. The packed-in crowd undulated, all eyes on the spectacle of the performers. This was my first time seeing Fever Ray live, and the experience is as mesmerizing visually as it is musically. All of the musicians’ outfits were works of art in themselves. The percussionist wore a crown of spikes. The synth player was topped with a giant cloud-like headdress covered in tiny lights. All three vocalists were decked out in different style suits, Fever Ray in white, a satin tie knotted at their throat. But it was their face and eyes that were most riveting, their skull-like make-up emphasizing the haunting energy of their smiling stare.
Fever Ray at Terminal 5 (photo by Kate Hoos)
The lengthy set included most of the songs from Radical Romantics, with “Shiver” being a real highlight of the night, as the three vocalists leaned on each other, becoming like one body, a three-headed sex caterpillar. They closed the night with “Coconut” (from their 2009 self-titled album) as an encore, after a quick costume change, with all three singers reappearing in black hooded capes. After triumphant bows to the ecstatic audience, they left the stage and the gaslight flickered out, and I was pushed out into the night satisfied, but looking forward to the next time. Fever Ray is headed to the West Coast and then back to Europe for the rest of the tour, so I’ll have to content myself with having Radical Romantics on repeat in the Brooklyn traffic until they return.
Scroll down for setlist, pics of the show (photos by Kate Hoos)
Setlist: What They Call Us, New Utensils, When I Grow Up, Mustn’t Hurry, Triangle Walks, To the Moon and Back, Shiver, Kandy, Even It Out, An Itch, I’m Not Done, Carbon Dioxide, Now’s the Only Time I Know, Tapping Fingers, If I Had a Heart, Coconut