Real Live Action

Air + Kate Havnevik


Review By Bitsy Knox

It seems to me that Air is, in many ways, a seasonal band, meant for languorously rolling around on bottle-green lawns and brushing back flops of hair to place a daisy behind the ear of your amour to. Perhaps this is why the show venue, Richards, reminded me a bit of that time when your older sister informed you that your sand-castle looked “kind-of-crappy”.

The opener, Kate Havnevik’s set was agreeably short. Outstretching her arms like a character in Phantom of the Opera, Havnevik’s Bjork-inspired voice sounded a little too radio-ready over her pre-recorded tracks — it gave away her classically trained background. Havnevik has received much hype lately, perhaps due to the inclusion of one her songs on Grey’s Anatomy, which made it difficult to gage the integrity of her music — especially with painfully-contrived lyrics like, “Timeless / Love is a cure / A promise/ Still so pure”. Still, her optimistic euro-styled electronic pop will certainly appeal to certain masses — I even told my Mum about her — especially the album itself, which proves slightly more compelling than her well-intentioned, yet ultimately underwhelming, live set.

Then there was Air. All the sexy clichés we associate with their particular brand of lofty French electronic soundtrack pop were animatedly played upon live. From the beginning of the set, a bright white strobe light shone from behind Nicholas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel, silhouetting them in blue halos and casting a vast brightness over the crowd, blinding some and forcing others to look away from the stage and back into the crowd until the tempo, and invariably the lights, changed. Only between numbers was the lightshow momentarily switched off to reveal the two musicians in their immaculate little white pants — all business.

The song lineup was rather nostalgically-weighted in Air’s older material from their last three albums. Perhaps this was because they felt they had some catching up to do, given the rarity of live Air performances in Vancouver. Hearing the songs they did play from their newest album, Pocket Symphony, it seemed clear this album shifts to a more spectral and quieter sound. The new material is an honest and well balanced progression from their earlier work. The show, then, read like a retrospective, capitalizing on a well-known aesthetic, rather than attempting to re-invent themselves album by album, live show by live show, as so many bands do.

Air are a confident band, able to guage their audience and keep them in anticipation of long-awaited build-ups, or an even longer-awaited encore of everyone’s favorite numbers. Predictable, but you got the feeling the joke was not on them. All that, and sexy French “Sank-you, sank-you vezy much.” accents? Come back anytime, guys! But only in the summer.