Karnivool

support n/a
author TL date 11/11/13 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

Hands down, I haven't previously been into Karnivool myself, but AP has been speaking of their merits for a while, and upon him spinning the odd track of theirs for me, one thing has been clear: It's plain for anyone to hear that objectively, the Australian quintet of sixteen years and three full lenghts is too good to be ignored, so while AP himself is off in Asia I take it upon myself to head to the show and at least provide an outsider's perspective.

Arriving at Pumpehuset, my first impression is super positive, because in a month that is positively rammed with good concerts (if things go well, I will attend ten shows in November) and on a day where Parkway Drive, Avenged Sevenfold and Skid Row are also playing in town, the downstairs room still looks to be at a little over half capacity - meaning that it looks full and it's already hard to get a spot near the stage, but otherwise there's room enough to comfortably move around. It's quite puzzling really, considering how empty many shows in town tend to be, and I wonder if somebody deserves a pad on the shoulder for good promotional work here. In any case, the band is supposed to start at 8, but with no support it seems like nobody is in any particular hurry, so while it takes forty more minutes before Karnivool actually comes on, there's really no palpable feeling of impatience or anything in the air.

All pictures in this article courtesy of Eva Bozevniece

Karnivool

When the band does come on, they do so calmly, starting off in businesslike manner with "Last Few" and "AM War", and to begin with the mix favours the rhythm section and the lead vocals a bit too much, so while you can already hear how tight the band is playing, the finer points of Andrew Goddard and Mark Hosking's guitar work is obscured along with their backing vocals. They gain presence as we move through "Themata" and "Goliath" however, and soon the main point of impression for the show is in how completely in control Karnivool are, effortlessly performing the sounds of their recorded complexities, with even the xylophone/glockenspiel played live, and with tracks seamlessly timed with sampled ambiance that rings various songs in and out.

The crowd seems to generally be in good, welcoming spirits, although the applause varies noticeably in volume from song to song, as the gathered audience clearly has their favourites. Not that it seems to affect Karnivool's behaviour on stage much. Goddard and bassist Jon Stockman both groove back and forth, looking immersed in their individual parts, while Hosking seems stiffly concentrated and singer Ian Kenny honestly looks a bit sleepy. Drummer Steve Judd is shirtless after the first track, but from my position to the rear, it's hard to see him play, but for what it's worth, he is every bit as precise as every other part of the soundscape is tonight.

It's clear though, that showmanship is not really a point of emphasis here. A few modest thank you's are muttered in the occasional gap between songs, and a half-hearted comment is aimed towards Denmark's Australian Crown Princess Mary, but otherwise Karnivool lets the music do the talking, giving me the impression that their attitude is that as long as they deliver their goods flawlessly, that's what they're there to do and an audience can take it or leave it.

Fortunately for the show at large, the audience definitely takes it, slowly growing euphoric in their between-song cries of appreciation, and towards the latter third of the show, things start to rub off a bit on Kenny and Stockman, each looking almost a bit puzzled, like they didn't expect anyone around here to know them at all. Kenny substitutes a 1000 yard stare for occasionally closing his eyes and raising a fist in the air when the singalongs are loudest, and Stockman looks up to smile here and there, but really it's an oddly backwards case of the audience's energy lifting the band's instead of the other way around. A sizable fan-base in Copenhagen simply loves them some Karnivool it seems, as shown clearly by the loyal romp of noise they make to summon the band back for the encore that's composed of "Alpha Omega" and the often shouted-for "New Day". Things reach their best in the latter, where Kenny eventually stops singing momentarily, only to hear a strong choir of crowd members still carrying lines from the song's bridge.

As the band then ends and exits with characteristically understated goodbyes, I prepare to leave the venue with slightly mixed feelings. On one hand it definitely is super impressive seeing bands play complex stuff like this and sounding so spot on in the live setting, and I love the fact that we have audiences who seem capable of having a great time, simply based on a show's strictly musical merits. Yet as well played as the set was it also felt just a tiny bit detached - like the band didn't really share any of themselves with the audience at all. And while I think people here were already elated just from what they got, I feel like they were also ready for a lot more, and could have felt even more gratified if the band had engaged them just a little bit. My grade balances on a razors edge then: If you're like me and you like to feel a band being more personally present both in and between songs, then the show only barely managed to rise above the "solid but ordinary" towards the end, but if you're happy to just hear complex modern prog get delivered flawlessly, then you likely had no complaints at all and should feel free to tack on an extra half grade:

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