As Fever Ray and in The Knife, Karin Dreijer has embodied many characters, but she’s never looked like she’s had this much fun doing it.
When Fever Ray’s Plunge crash-landed last year, its gleefully shocking antics left us gasping for air. A world away from the steely presence of her Fever Ray debut, a series of videos saw Dreijer inhabit a wide-eyed, genderless body to flesh out the album’s anarcho-queer vision, and employed a cast of characters to toy with its BDSM basement aesthetics. These characters appeared again in the visuals for the Plunge tour, introduced to us in a series of Top Trump cards, looking like Mortal Kombat fighters from an alien planet ruled by women.
These characters comprise Fever Ray’s band, and they appear tonight at the sold out Berlin show. Seems like someone’s been watching Glow – a purple hue descends on the stage and the band members arrive one by one with all the camp ferocity of a wrestler entering the ring. As they stomp to the front of the stage they each work a kind of Street Fighter goes to Berghain look: sporting whips, lycra, body paint, head-to-toe PVC and – a personal favourite – a body builder muscle suit, bright orange and cinched at the waist by pink glitter pants. Karin Dreijer follows, sporting the demonic baby look from her videos, the light reflecting off her bald head and Vaseline-smeared make-up. Her t-shirt, which says ‘I love Swedish Girls’ (with ‘Swedish’ crossed out in black tape), is a not-so-subtle reminder of the themes fizzing through the album.
Indeed, the whole show drips with lust. While The Knife’s farewell tour had an element of stage school theatrics, tonight is pure joy. The women take their places – two on percussion, one on synths and two singers joining Dreijer at the front – as they rattle into new material, embellishing tracks like An Itch and A Part of Us with earthy live percussion, thick bass and choreographed dance moves. In between bounding round the stage, the three singers move in unison, with armpit whiffs, finger sniffs, and fists up for This Country’s rally cry: “This country makes it hard to fuck”. This biggest reaction of the night is, unsurprisingly, to their quite literal illustration of the album’s lyrical trigger switch: “I want to run my fingers up your pussy”. It’s a punishing -10 degrees outside tonight but it’s pretty steamy in here. One demonstration of Plunge’s carnal pulse sees the three act out a ménage à trois, taking it in turns to sub and dom – hair is pulled, legs are hoisted over bodies, faces pushed toward the floor.
These intoxicating moments are harshly contrasted with material from Fever Ray. Pivoting between extroversion and introversion, the suffocating domesticity of the debut is reflected in stark, low-lit performances. The singers huddle motionless in a corner of the stage, singing about TV and concrete walls. For Red Trails, one singer twirls with silver wings billowing around her, like a phoenix rising from an oil spill, and we are brought back up to the heavens again. The pink and purple haze of the strip lights turns into rainbows for the encore of If I Had a Heart and Mama’s Hand – one song about lovelessness and one about longing – before the band gather at the front, resembling a depraved Spice Girls. In a show packed with joy and strength and pride, their collective presence feels truly nourishing. More than anything, tonight traced the scale of Fever Ray’s journey – stepping out from claustrophobia into the wild unknown; from domesticity to a new kind of family.