We get a lot of good shows here in New York City, but this is not without a downside. Just to get into the venue, a bouncer took a peek in my bag and another patted me up and down and metal-detected anyplace I could hide a firearm (I presume). In these dangerous times, it proves hard to sneak in a flask into an event such as a Röyksopp show. I wouldn’t mention it, but drinks starting at $6 that come in plastic cups just put me in a bad mood. At least at fancy ultra-hip NYC bars you get to drink from real glasses for the same price. And you can usually sit down. At any rate, I was then forced to check my bag for another $1.50 plus tip. I got my drinking bracelet and traversed up to the main floor.
17 Mar 2003: Irving Plaza New York
At the top I was greeted by $25/$20 Röyksopp T-shirts for sale. I passed. Those shirts were dope and all, but if was going to treat myself to a few drinks I had to prioritize. I purchased a $6 can of Rolling Rock (plus $1 tip) and found a good spot to escape from my financial woes.
For about two hours an unknown DJ unleashed a barrage of dance cuts, mostly of the handbag variety (for those not familiar with this term, picture a bougie girl setting her handbag down for a moment for a quick, not quite party girl, dance). I got bored really quick and just sat back against a wall and started to feel a little sleepy. Apart from the few head bobs, no one really even seemed aware that there was dance music playing over the PA. Even as they stood on what I would call for practical purposes a dance floor, there was no dancing. The DJ strayed from the handbag and put on some Hendrix, to a few cheers, but still no dancing. What was going on here? Röyksopp make dance music, right? Wouldn’t Röyksopp fans be into, uh . . . dancing? Even when the DJ put on a track by the much lauded Metro Area, no dice. I got the feeling that no matter who was DJing no one would be dancing. I guess everyone was just waiting to see the people who play that “Poor Leno” song. Strange.
On a dark stage a sample of women singing started playing and the two Röyksopp dudes, Svein Berge and Torbjorn Brundtland came out waving. The two had play stations, one consisting of a computer/sequencer, vocoder, mixer and a rack of multiple keyboards, the other of drum pads, a real crash cymbal, and another keyboard. The first song they played was “So Easy”. The crowd cheered, but still no body movement beyond head bobs and a few brief hands in the air.
The majority of the set was played with one of the guys beating the drum pads and the other playing multiple keyboards, all to pre-sequenced tracks. They brought out a bassist for a few songs, but this added no great effect. Playing bass along to a pre-sequenced bassline just didn’t work with the venue’s sound system. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m all for playing real-time instruments with a pre-sequenced track, but in the end it should all come together and sound good. Their instrumental hit “Eple” sounded a bit muddy, reminding me that I have heard it sound better in a dance club context, played by a DJ.
They encored with their hit “Poor Leno”, a song that fellow Norwegian, Kings of Convenience/solo artist Erlend Oye sings on the Röyksopp full length Melody A.M. Without Oye present, they made do with Svein Berge singing the song through a vocoder. This is the song everyone was waiting for. The intro was greeted with cheers, a few more hands in the air and nothing I would really call dancing. Sure, there was the lone rave dude dancing in the corner, and probably a few more of the same I couldn’t see, but that was it. I imagine their shows in Europe and the UK to be a different scene—a dancing scene to be exact. Here in the States I would imagine the typical Röyksopp fan is more likely to purchase a Volkswagen than boogie down.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong online. Please consider a donation to support our work as an independent publisher devoted to the arts and humanities. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where advertising no longer covers our costs. We need your help to keep PopMatters publishing. Thank you.