The last time I had a chance to catch Miike Snow live, it was a mighty intense experience. We were at the Treasure Island music festival in San Francisco, the air was frigid, everyone had to shake for warmth and shimmy because the beats were that infectious. The men on stage were masked and shadowed, outlined in a billowing fog. I felt as though we were watching some frightful space-age Vikings step out of their UFO to blow our faces off. Then…I saw them at the El Rey theatre this week, a slightly altered scenario.
Standing front left of stage, I was in a prime position to get my face melted off again. Ready to dance, ready for energy. As the show commenced, the El Rey morphed into an almost mirror image of that SF stage–thick fog, beams of ultra light. Out walked three gold masked figures in matching black satin jackets, and they launched straight into Happy To You’s intro song, “Enter The Joker’s Lair.” I suppose Miike Snow has gotten to the point where they want to reveal themselves to their fans more because those masks didn’t last very long. As soon as that first song was finished, off came their façades and in marched “The Wave.” A song heavy with drummage in the first place, they made sure to pump up the volume and intensity for the live version.
The group’s stage setup was elaborate, with what looked like a spacecraft command station complete with control panels and widgets on each side as the centerpiece. It was painted black, had coordinating light bulbs built into it, and a cutout of the jackalope in front that would light up with the tempo of the music. Several set-ups of keys were to its right, a drum kit to its back left, and a couple of floor toms scattered about. All of this was back-dropped by a screen resembling a cracked eyeball, reflecting inverted images of the on-stage actions into each crevice. This stage plot looked like it was more catered to the dimensions of the Outdoor Stage at Coachella than the El Rey’s moderately sized space. No matter, though. They made it work.
Miike Snow is out promoting their second album, Happy To You, so we definitely got a full serving of songs from it during the show. As for their self-titled album, the guys dished out all of the hits, saving the greatest for last…nearly giving the kids around me a premature heart attack at the thought that Miike weren’t going to play it. After their performance of “Cult Logic,” Andrew announced “Bavarian #1.” A young drummer came out to deliver the song’s military stir, while Pontus left the ‘control panel’ to pound on keys in the back. This swap would happen several times between the two towering Snows throughout their show.
I was a bit surprised by one of the songs that ended up being a show highlight for me, since it hadn’t particularly stood out on the record. “Pretender” sounded big this night, rowdying up the crowd. This song also elicited a greater exertion of energy from the band members. You could sense that it might be one favored by Andrew Wyatt, lead singer, by the way he was traipsing, sliding and spinning back and forth across stage. Christian Karlsson kept a mainstay at his station, beating upon drum pads, mixing this and that, and I liked everything about his presence. Rocking high-top chucks, rolled-up jeans, and jamming on top of a pedal case the whole show, he was definitely the most fun band member to watch.
Going through “Sylvia,” “God Help This Divorce,” and “Black and Blue,” I noticed something about the crowd from where I stood. They weren’t very into it. I guess everyone could have been recovering from a weekend in the desert or was just having very introverted experiences, but LA was not responding awesome, which was a little disheartening. I had just come back from Coachella myself and had restless legs to dance. This just wasn’t the show to do much of it at.
As the stage became flooded with crimson lights, Miike Snow burrowed into “Black Tin Box.” I got shivers down my spine during this performance, as it was definitely just as good, if not better, live. However, where the heck was Lykke Li?? “I mailed you a Dutch postcard” wasn’t near as sexy coming from the double mic’ed, deep, muffled voice of Wyatt. But it was still a stellar display. Keeping it dark and weird, Miike segued into “Devil’s Work,” with Andrew asking the audience if they dabbled in it. “If you do it…be careful,” he warned. Not creepy at all. But this final song was nevertheless awesome, and the group really dragged out the ending, messing with it and making it as big as they could.
Do people just expect an encore these days? What is the point of an “encore” if it’s not crowd-generated? I think Los Angeles has become a bit spoiled, because this crowd did not do its part to extract one from Miike Snow. We could have been SO much more loud and wanting. But they came out anyway, giving us “Sans Soleil” and, finally, “Animal,” ending with their biggest hit.
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