If the proliferation of Scandi-dramas is anything to believe, most Nordic women are near-autistic automatons, here only to supply a market for the makers of heavily-knitted woollen garments. From the moment they walk onstage, it’s clear no one’s told Icona Pop.
Dressed in a floor-length leather coat and a long, flowing top respectively, Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo make an impressive duo. Both sporting fresh, cling-filmed tattoos, Jawo’s striking features and vigour seem almost deliberately planned to offset Hjelt’s Drew Barrymore-esque girliness, while the intimate surroundings of Electrowerkz make it feel like you’ve just dropped in on a pair of awesome friends practising in their garage.
In fact, right from the blocky drum beat of set-opener ‘Manners’, Icona Pop make it joyfully apparent that despite their Swedish roots, this is very much a homecoming gig. Jawo’s sultry vocals are soon joined by the room’s all-round chorus of “Ba-ba-baa-ba-baa” and the track eventually builds into a dubstep crescendo that the crowd laps up like mad. As the track winds down, Jawo reaches out into the fans at the foot of the stage, gets up and announces, “We’ve been away for a year. It’s so fucking good to be back.”
Having moved over to London from Sweden, the band headed out to America last year and have been touring and recording ever since. The result seems to be a performance honed to perfection. Over the course of just under an hour, Hjelt and Jawo alternate between singing at their microphones, whipping up the fans and tinkering with an array of synthesisers and drum machines. And, set against the backdrop of two blinding lighting panels, Icona Pop’s performance is riveting as much because of their own sheer enjoyment as for the music they are actually playing.
Flicking between tracks from their ‘Nights Like This’ and ‘Iconic’ EPs, this is a tour de force of gleeful pop music filled with live bass drops. While dance music has long been able to pair aggressive electric synth beats with lighter female vocals, Icona Pop manage to make it feel like a refreshingly new and powerful combination. What’s more, even when the pair do embrace pop clichés like ‘We got the world’s “Everyday we celebrate just like we want” or “You will never be alone” on ‘Nights Like This’, they actually sound like they come from a genuine place.
It’s not high art but, like a customised IKEA bed, it’s simple, joyful and loved into uniqueness. In short, this is soulful pop flawlessly executed by two people who are having tremendous fun doing it. When they aren’t thanking the crowd for supporting them and coming along, they’re telling us how good it is to be back and, on the verge of being almost too grateful, grab a beer from the crowd, throw glow-sticks about and launch into all-out party track ‘Ready For The Weekend’. Coming on for breakout hit ‘I Love It’ as an encore is the final flourish and with one last thank you, they’re gone.