Taking the stage with a coterie artists who evoked an '80s cult film's vision the post-apocalyptic future, Fever Ray brought her second album, Plunge, to life for two nights (May 12-13) at DUMBO's Brooklyn Hangar as part Red Bull Music Festival.
The last time Fever Ray played New York City (not including performances as half The Knife), it was 2009 and she was touring behind her self-titled debut. Reflecting that LP's introspective, otherworldly atmosphere, those Webster Hall shows were enigmatic and distant, with a black cloak obscuring Karin Dreijer's head and mists shrouding the stage.
But Fever Ray's Plunge is an entirely different album, an extroverted affair with propulsive synths, pummeling percussion and unabashedly sexual, queer lyrics. And befitting that change in sound, Fever Ray live in 2018 is a wildly different experience. Unlike previous shows, Dreijer the human being was on full display – with shaved head and hungry eyes peering out from heavily shadowed eyes, the frequently mysterious performance artist revealed her face and her joy in the live setting. Dancing along with her two backup singers (one hilariously padded in a muscle suit and another wearing a glittery mixture football player shoulder pads and Nashville fringe), Fever Ray displayed a rapturously unapologetic demeanor; the six-person (all female) troupe traded blissful smiles and fed f each other's energy, creating an atmosphere more participatory than observational.
And whereas Fever Ray's 2009 lyrics were ten domestic and reserved, she spat out the blunt declarations Plunge with a fervent assurance. Leading the crowd in a fist pump as she chanted “this country makes it hard to fuck” in “This Country,” Dreijer and her singers emphasized the visceral physicality the music, pantomiming a threesome in various positions throughout the concert and grinding on each other to harsh industrial grooves while bathed in salmon-tinged lighting at one point. Even when the performers rubbed their crotches and sniffed their fingers, there wasn't a sense cartoonish parody or rebelliousness for shock value's sake; rather, it came across as a mature, self-possessed embrace one's own body and everything that entails.
As the night closed, the laser lights (which were as much a stage presence as any human performer) beamed out the colors the LGBTQ rainbow. Compared to the night-black aesthetic Fever Ray's first album, the celebratory openness the concert was jarring in the best possible way, displaying an artist who has decided to eschew enigma after embracing it for so long, and emerged far more fascinating for it.