The French/Finnish indie-pop duo The Dø gave a particularly poorly thought out performance in late July at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. Although the musicians poured their energy all over the stage, nothing could overcome the canned percussion track that deflated the night.
For a band whose latest album Both Ways Open Jaws is carried by deep and unflagging rhythms, the decision to use a recorded drum track with a mostly one-stick percussionist couldn’t have been worse. Despite the obvious musicality of the band, which they displayed by maneuvering skillfully through the recorded track, the recording bound and gagged the entire performance.
The fact that they have an adoring audience and no lack of onstage chemistry made the performance all the more disappointing. Singer Olivia Merilahti ratcheted around the stage with jerky but demure dance moves, hitting every pitch right on while giving her audience the baleful gaze and whining fragility they know to expect. Her voice carries, and her sinewy figure is the perfect vehicle for the doe-eyed wiry strength that is her onstage persona.
The percussionist, though ineffectual, played with intention and enthusiasm, at times literally air drumming along to the muffled recorded toms. She was clearly more at home on the saxophone, electronics, and keyboard, and was obviously an accomplished musician. The guitarist carried the bulk of the rhythmic weight with the usual open-mouthed rock-guitarist glaze. Dan Levy reigned on bass, playing strong melodic lines, but was ultimately responsible for the most tasteless moments of the night: A sax solo that he performed entirely doubled over from start to finish, with his chin tilted up to face the audience and his head wagging in more of a parody of a smooth jazz saxophonist than the indie artist his felt hat declared him to be.
Both members of the duo broke into cajoling the audience at some point; Levy gave it to Brooklyn in his best French accent, while Merilahti motioned hopefully over and over for her audience to sing along, to respond, to move around. At one point she had to ask, “Are you there, or not?” She got back what they put out: A response as flat as their performance.
Check out this live recording of Slippery Slope off their album Both Ways Open Jaws. Note how featured both percussionists are, and how well written and preformed the song is: