My love of Kings of Convenience goes back to the beginning of the college, just a couple months after the release of their second album, Riot on an Empty Street. As many of you can understand, freshman year is a very tumultuous period of time, and I spent most of my first NYC winter wallowing in self-pity. Accompanying me in these sessions was Kings of Convenience, soothing me with their minimalist acoustic instruments and making me feel even lonelier with their lyrics. Yes, I was one of those E-word kids.
When Kings of Convenience announced a single U.S. show at Bowery Ballroom, there wasn't a question of whether I would go. After five long years, KOC were about to return with Declaration of Dependence, an album that's been heroically kept under wraps for the most part. Last night at Bowery Ballroom, they unveiled live performances of many of these new songs for the first time to a very respectful crowd. Seriously, the audience admiration was comparable to what I felt at shows like Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes. I appreciate the slight predictability of KOC's music, and it seems like Declaration of Dependence is a melodically sunnier continuation of where the duo left off with Riot on an Empty Street. "Mrs. Cold" is the first single off Declaration of Dependence, and it's a classic KOC song in every way. The almost cynical lyrics of unrequited love and soft guitar-picked chords and notes are undoubtedly irresistible. Kings of Convenience proved that they haven't forgotten their formula for hooking and reeling in the listener.
The night was full of surprises, starting with the fact that Kings of Convenience are not boring to watch, even with just the two of them! Their stage banter was so natural and the crowd ate it up. I could feel everyone loosening up as Erlend and Eirik poked fun at themselves, their new songs, why it's taken so long for them to put together a new album, an audience member's terrible Norwegian, and male models. Erlend even shared a little known fact that "Little Kids" was written while he was walking around the Lower East Side. I think that makes him an honorary New Yorker.
The biggest surprise came at the very end when Kings of Convenience returned to the stage for their encore. Out of nowhere Leslie Feist appeared on the balcony and started belting her part to an unplugged version of "The Build Up." I was standing right below the balcony so I couldn't make out Feist's face, but her voice was unmistakeable. If you know me personally, you're probably wondering why I'm freaking out over this guest appearance when I don't even like Leslie's solo stuff. Well, it's true that I've never quite warmed up to most of Feist's solo material, but I love her presence in BSS and on the two KOC songs from their last album. Before I could even get over the shock of seeing a denim-clad Feist on the balcony, she was onstage for "Know How," a stunning song from the last album. The contained energy and excitement of the crowd during this song was unbelievable. I could see and hear people mouthing or singing along with KOC and Leslie, and I felt like I was a part of something special. I know it sounds corny, but it was an incredible moment that I will never forget.
Power of live music, folks. It brings tears of joy to my eyes. Go see Kings of Convenience. Declaration of Dependence will be released in October.