Caribou at the O2 Academy – at last!
Two years is a long time in music for an outfit like Caribou. Whilst Dan Snaith is no slouch in the writing department under several names, Caribou have hardly been releasing an album a year. What’s more it is his misfortune to have what is probably his best album under the Caribou name released smack bang in the Covid maelstrom. For the fans who were eagerly awaiting the touring of this album it meant keeping an eye out for postponements and rescheduling.
What was in place for March 2020 became May 2021 which then became October 2021. It’s the kind of situation where you can’t remember if you bought tickets for a thing or not and live with the fear that you should have been out one night but forgot to check.
So, was the additional eighteen months’ wait worth it? Hell yes.
I’m not a big dance music fan but there is something about the sounds that Dan Snaith makes with this band that makes them utterly compelling. The usual tropes are there; the grooves, the cliff edges, the samples, but Caribou are not delivering a club experience. The guitar-bass-drums combination that underpin all the electronic stuff allow the music to go off in many directions. Dan Snaith is trying to do something different; something out of the ordinary.
Elkka, the support on the night, also looked to come at things from a different angle, even though her music was a bit more predictable. She took her combination of electronica and house back to basics but at the same time adding a layer of introspective vocals. This allowed her to engage with the lukewarm crowd and reach out from behind her big table full of laptops, equipment and electronic trickery. Pretty soon people were getting into it, the chatting calmed down and the dancing began. A lot of the tunes were from her 2021 outing Euphoric Melodies including the quirky Alexandra; a song written for her partner that ended her set. But there is new stuff too. Elkka will release Harmonic Frequencies next month. It will be worth checking out.
Dan Snaith made his leap to engage a real global audience with the Caribou album Swim in 2010. It’s hard to believe that it was that long ago but songs like Odessa, Sun, and Kalli have remained huge ever since. It’s always interesting to see how people react to tunes and try to gauge what they know of a band’s catalog. Opener New Jade was received with polite applause but as soon as the distorted drum beat, and descending hook of Odessa was heard the place went wild.
Odessa was followed by Our Love from the 2014 album of the same name and the set just sprinted away. Tunes merged into one another, and the graphics and light show added to the slightly disjointed feel. That’s what Caribou bring to the table, an element of polite disruption. Nice tunes, light vocals, danceable beats and then something a bit weird, or unexpected.
Often this is the use of a sample or distortion like the bridge in the excellent You and I. To be honest the samples and effects could have been louder on the night, but that’s being a bit picky. Or it can be the basis of the song as a whole like the use of Gloria Barnes’s Home in the song of the same name. Think the most soulful tune tune of the ‘70s with Northern Soul strings combined with Dan Snaith’s sideways approach to the sound. This is basically my very favourite tune from 2020’s Suddenly album . Here is my dodgy iPhone video of the performance. Unfortunately, you don’t get the rib-vibrating bass tones that we experienced but it gives a flavour.
I mentioned earlier that this is the best Caribou album and it made up more than half of the set. It was epic and did nothing but strengthen my opinion. The set proper ended with their latest tune You Can Do It and an extended version of Never Come Back. I think most people could have predicted that Can’t Do Without You would be the encore, but it was great to hear it live.
To ask the question again: was it worth the wait? Undoubtedly, for the band as well as the audience. Let’s hope that whatever constitutes the new normal can allow bands to write, perform and prosper as before. This was my first standing post-Covid gig. It was an exhilarating experience.
Like I Loved You
You and I
You Can Do It
Never Come Back
I Can’t Do Without You
Review and dodgy media: Ian Gelling