Review: Icona Pop

Icona PopVancouver Sun, Dec. 23, 2013: Icona Pop has been a long time coming. The Swedish electro house pop duo were supposed to hit Vancouver in early September, but cancelled. Now, almost four months later, they were due to face a sold-out crowd at the Commodore. But would they be worth the wait? You may not know the name Icona Pop, but you’ve probably heard the song I Love It, which was written for them by British electro artist Charli XCX. The song was featured on a particularly hedonistic episode of the second season of the HBO series Girls. Its grinding chorus and devil-may-care lyrics made it one of the songs of the summer, and now the duo of Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo are set to back up both Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry on coming tours.

Saturday night opener K Flay turned some heads with her pounding drum choruses. In honour of her last night on the tour, and the hassle of cross border travel, the rapper brought out a thrilling, if truncated sampling of Weezer’s Say It Ain’t So – just one verse and chorus left the audience wanting more.

Between sets an impromptu Europop dance party broke out with the DJ eschewing the usual Top 40 in favour of Abba and Ace of Base. As the break pushed past 11, the well warmed crowd grew impatient.

The lights went down, but the main act didn’t come out. The wait continued long enough for the canned tunes to come back on and then go off again.

The two finally made it out about 10 minutes later and broke into a soaring rendition of the anthemic We Got the World. Clad in boxy black and white dresses out of a ’60s alien invasion flick, Icona Pop managed to smooth over any nerves. Highlights of the evening included a cuted up cover of Tupac Shakur’s Me and My Girlfriend dedicated to the singers’ friendship.

What differentiates Icona Pop from acts like Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry is that no one expects them to be role models. Their calls to party appear to come not from a childish

exuberance but from a kind of cheerful end-of-the-world nihilism that owes more to punk and metal. Their songs are poppy, but clearly by and for adults. The lyrics, which tend toward the goofy side in the vein of their Europop forbearers, give way to the complicated fist pumping rhythms that are the real heart of the music.

It would have been a shame to put off seeing Icona Pop until they opened for Miley or Katy, to have their infectious dance beats reduced to a mere hors d’oeuvre. In the vast cave of Rogers Arena, concert goers will miss the grimy underbelly of the music that comes across best in a packed club with a wicked dance floor like the Commodore.

That being said, the set felt a bit short, clocking in at only 40 minutes before the encore. With only the one album under their belts, they simply seem to lack material for a longer outing.

It would have been nice to see them work the crowd a bit more, do some more extended live mixing, but that would have made for a very different kind of show.

The three-song finale brought the openers back on stage for a dance party of their own. The whole group finished up with the big single and the crowd, their doubts banished, cheerfully sang along to the chorus, “I don’t care. I love it.”

Read it in the Vancouver Sun