The old adage that London gig audiences are hard to please has one very simple solution. Simply replace all the Londoners in the audience with French people. It's a tactic that gives tonight's gig, by Franco-Finnish hybrid The Dø (pronounced the same as 'dough'), an atmosphere akin to a homecoming show.
The boy/girl two-piece enjoy a hero’s welcome as they take to the stage, which is adorned with the kind of percussion instruments you'd associate more with an African tribal group, less with a quirky indie pop band from the continent.
But then again, The Dø are not your average quirky indie pop band from the continent, at least not anymore. Their debut went to number one in the French album chart and last year's follow up 'Both Ways Open Jaws' was an improved, more refined take on their scattershot sound.
They're even more of an uncategorisable prospect live, jumping from style to style as freely as if they were changing their socks. The placid musicians that open the set – with a sweeping song that showcases lead singer Olivia Bouyssou Merilahti's icy, childlike vocals - is virtually unrecognisable from the band a few songs down the line, who revel in pounding artificial drum beats and sustained guitar feedback.
On record, The Dø roughly occupy a space in the middle of a graph that has fellow Europeans Air and The Knife at either axis. But live, flanked by two other musicians, one in charge of the drum machine and the other a pony-tailed electric guitarist, the industrial rock grind of The Kills begins to creep in, albeit in a more polished, shiny form.
'The Bridge Is Broken', dispatched early on, has instant appeal. It's a catchy, fiery tale of betrayal that takes in a backwards guitar riff and electronic meanderings, as the lead singer wails "Boy you got nerve/it's all your fault/this stitch is open".
But The Dø are a hard band to predict. 'Dust It Off', a song that initially has a soft, hypnotic, swirling piano melody at its core, unravels at its climax, drum machine in overdrive and guitars entering cardiac arrest.
However, this chameleon-like approach to songwriting means not everything comes off. Sometimes, without a clear plan in mind, their songs are mere indulgent ideas, performed with the kitchen sink but without proper execution.
But you need only wait a bit untill something eventually connects. The topsy turvy groove and sweet melody of 'Gonna Be Sick' for example, the bhangra beat exuberance running through 'Slippery Slope', or the layered pop hooks on 'Smash Them All Night'.
Often, it's the vocals of frontwoman Olivia that hit the spot, with a Nordic twang similar to Bjork's, mixed with the same crystal clear delivery. Her voice is a recurrent centrepiece in the jigsaw puzzle that is The Dø's sound; not exactly edgy, but arrestingly unconventional all the same.
Published on Clashmusic.com
Photo by Helen F Kennedy