Pop & Hiss

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Coachella 2010: Fever Ray's dark arts not as powerful when performed in a plain old music festival tent

April 17, 2010 |  1:52 pm

Fever Ray, closing out the Mojave tent, played a perfectly strong show, but the tent setting was not the best for their theatrical goth pop. Swedish electro-witch Karin Dreijer Andersson shouldn't be performing in some tarp contraption that can be erected and dismantled in a day -- she should be performing at the altar of an obsidian marble church, preferably while levitating.

Dressed like techno druids in all black and ghastly face paint with a stage set up of blinking vintage lamps, the band's presentation was beautiful and unusual. Lasers beamed overhead, catching the smoke in the air, transforming it into a swirling neon ocean. The music hewed pretty close to the low subliminal brood of her debut album, but with a few twists: "When I Grow Up" got more synth drone, and "Seven" -- a song that veers from the mundane (dishwasher tablets) to the existential (dreams of heaven) -- became even more playful, with an extra synth loop and tom-tom drums.

Even with some low-end shudders to rival headliner Jay-Z's, too much of the drama and tension of Fever Ray was sucked out of the back of the tent, despite the best efforts of a couple of girls who were happy to entertain the masses by dancing in white go-go boots and pinwheeling arms loaded with neon jelly bracelets.

The problem was simply California -- who wants to see palm trees near Andersson when she's the aural equivalent of the Northern Lights?

--Margaret Wappler