The Cardigans @ O2 Academy, 6th December 2018

The Cardigans @ O2 Academy, 6th December 2018The Cardigans @ O2 Academy, 6th December 2018The Cardigans @ O2 Academy, 6th December 2018The Cardigans @ O2 Academy, 6th December 2018The Cardigans @ O2 Academy, 6th December 2018The Cardigans @ O2 Academy, 6th December 2018The Cardigans @ O2 Academy, 6th December 2018The Cardigans @ O2 Academy, 6th December 2018The Cardigans @ O2 Academy, 6th December 2018The Cardigans @ O2 Academy, 6th December 2018The Cardigans @ O2 Academy, 6th December 2018

It’s twenty years since The Cardigans released Gran Turismo, the album that eradicated the kitsch indie pop that the band had been famous for. Despite this being their best selling album, the ticket sales are poor with barely a third of the venue being occupied which means you can get a decent view of the stage easily.

The band enter the stage shrouded in dry ice and begin with Paralyzed. Musically, there is a much harsher edge to the song with an industrial churning to enhance the variations that exist within the track. Nina Persson’s sweet vocal style adds to the contrasts that are taking place with her striking stature and black attire.

The catchy electro pop beat of Erase/Rewind illustrate the sultry nature of Persson as she prowls round the stage with a hint of Cat Woman about her, suggesting an aloofness as she lyrically pours out her heart break. The sound is tremendous and the additional weight provided by all of the instruments gives the songs another dimension that allows for them to feel less dated.

Hanging Around allows for new guitarist, Oskar Humlebo, to make his mark with a superb guitar solo that embellishes the sinister key changes towards the end of the song which clearly impresses Nina who encourages the audience to clap along. Again in Marvel Hill, the guitar and the bell reiterate the intriguingly disquieting vibe which is juxtaposed with Persson’s innocent vocal line. The bright white lights fly around the stage as if to represent bolts of lightning whilst Oskar creates scratching sounds that unsettle the listener.

The ominous nature is broken dramatically with the introduction of My Favourite Game and Persson reappears wearing a cape. This is surely one of the greatest pop songs of the late 90s with its simple yet gritty riff that sees the audience start to move and illustrates the potential Persson and Svensson have as song writers, as this is certainly the strongest track from their back catalogue. Lagerberg’s precise drumming and Johansson’s underlying keyboard drone push the driving aspect of the track which is over all too soon.

Persson announces that Do You Believe hasn’t stood the test of time in the way the rest of the album has, to which I think she is being harsh. There is a dated element to the musical refrain but not overtly and I contemplated this only after Nina had mentioned it. Junk Of The Hearts sees the occasional kick from the vocalist as she encourages the audience to sing along with the chorus and clearly appreciates the feedback.

The instrumental Nil brings the set to a close and the band exit for a brief moment to allow outfit changes. This next part of the set takes on a much lighter air and consists of “a smorgasbord” of The Cardigans back catalogue which became a little tiresome as it didn’t have the grit and dirtiness that Gran Turismo contained and I became overwhelmed by the saccharin. It was interesting to see Persson play the harmonica competently through the countryesque For What It’s Worth and then the vigorous cowbell in I Need Some Fine Wine And You, You Need To Be Nicer.

The encore includes a tribute to the Prince of Darkness with a cover of Black Sabbath’s Iron Man which The Cardigans translated to suit their style resulting in a saucy lounge version that is a million miles away from the heavy sensibilities of Iommi but yet worked. You couldn’t help sensing Humlebo was desperate to let rip and play the riff as it was originally written. Carnival and Lovefool bring the kitsch pop into its full glory which is welcomed by the dwindling audience.

Lovefool has everyone singing along and Persson jokes when she changes the words reminding us that she’s the singer in the band. The final track of the night is 03:45 No Sleep to draw the evening to a suitable close. I can’t help thinking that if The Cardigans had removed a few songs before the encore they would have had a more concise and interesting set. Certainly Gran Turismo sounded marvellous but my attention waned after that and reminded me why I only ever owned one Cardigans album.

Reviewer: Toni Woodward

Photographer: Chris Bowley  

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