The famous Tom Petty number covered by opening act Foreign Slippers turned out to be quite a good summation of the night overall. “In a world that keeps on pushing me around / I’ll stand my ground and I won’t back down,” sang Gabi Frödén with all the girlish reticence she could muster. Dressed in a shiny floral print dress, her dark hair encircled by a sprig of plastic berries and leaves, the Swedish singer and her smartly attired, beardy four-piece band treated us to a full-blooded realisation of her more meditative recorded work, highlights being ‘Packed The Car’ and the singalong ‘Green Jacket’.
Next up were faux-Swedes Dag för Dag, an American sibling duo who live in Stockholm, touring heavily in advance of the February 22 release of their debut album Boo. Barefoot and six months’ pregnant, Sarah Snavely commands lead vocals on most of the songs, all of which crackle with electricity and galloping rhythms courtesy of drummer “Chuck Bukowski” (a genuine Swede), while skilfully coaxing out a tuneful thrash from her guitar.
Every item of her ’70s disco vixen get-up sparkles under the lights as brother Jacob careens around the stage like a trolley with a wonky wheel, forever on the edge of imbalance. But what first seems like tiresome rock posturing becomes sheer entertainment as he lurches about, almost hitting audience and band members alike with the headstock of his bass.
Though the crowd has been whipped up into moderate kinetics (well, this is London), there’s a huge lull before Thao and the Thompson brothers, Willis and Adam, finally take to the stage, grim-faced and unhappy. It turns out someone had stolen Thao’s treasured 1950s guitar out of their dressing room and, for all her best efforts, there was no hiding just how crushed she was.
Borrowing a replacement from Dag för Dag, she bravely launches in to one of several tracks from new album Know Better Learn Faster (out February 15), including the joyful resignation of ‘Good Bye Good Luck’, which she dedicates to her lost guitar. At one point she turns and takes out her aggression on the drums, pounding them hard in an explosion of chaotic rhythms. Later she tells the story of how she had foiled a would-be purse thief in Belgium not long ago, only to have him aggressively swear at her. “He acted so fucking entitled,” she says, adding ”How could you do that to another human being?”
As understandably pissed off as she is, however, the show goes on with its head held high and an extra glint of fierceness in its eyes. First album favourites ‘Geography’ and ‘Bag Of Hammers’ temporarily dispel the malaise and, by the time Dag för Dag join the band on stage for a “dance party” with maracas and a hailstorm of cymbal crashes, Thao is smiling again. New track ‘Fixed It!’ makes for a presumably unintentional appropriate coda, but alcohol-induced obliteration awaits and they slope off stage, dejected but definitely not disgraced.
Thao will be back in London in March with a show at The Borderline. Thieves not invited.
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Dag för Dag
Thao with The Get Down Stay Down