Articles: The Con Twee-Ki Expedition (Kowz - November 21st 2001)

St. Thomas - Spitz Club, London, England - 10/31/01

As soon as St Thomas and his band took to the stage it was clear this wasn't to be the twee affair we were expecting. Kings Of Convenience are the obvious beacon for what appears to be a Norwegian acoustic movement, so one may have predicted a delicate performance from a shy Nord armed only with a guitar and his own sensitivity. One was wrong. One was rocked.

St Thomas, real name Thomas Hansen, hails from Oslo. His music to date has had little impact on these shores. Mysterious Walks, last year's debut album, is a collection of 13 beautiful home recordings that are often so fragile you feel they could collapse at any point.

Last time St Thomas came to England his Norwegian record company Racing Junior couldn't afford to send a backing band with him. This time around he was taking advantage of his UK home City Slang's coffers. Joined on stage by three Norwegian indie boys and a bearded lumberjack, his songs were padded out with extra percussion and guitar.

Opening with a new song, the band then launched into Invitation from Mysterious Walks. The listener is invited lyrically into 'the St Thomas World'; it was quickly becoming clear exactly what St Thomas' world involved. First there was the humour. Hansen created an intimate bond with the audience, using the charm and charisma employed by Wayne Coyne at Flaming Lips' shows. In a broad Scandinavian accent he entertained not only the audience but his fellow band members too, with anecdotes of his adventures, misadventures, and failed propositions while here in the UK.

More importantly the 'St Thomas World' is a world of songs rich in beauty and emotion. Strangers Out Of Blue is the most beautiful song to be played on my stereo since PJ Harvey's The Dancer. Tonight it was stripped of the Hammond organ and banjo, which only added to its tear jerking directness.

The recent Cornerman EP, though scarcely available in England, has spent most of the summer sitting in the Norwegian Top 10; battling for positions with the likes of Basement Jaxx and Shaggy. I'm not sure whether this means St Thomas is a household name in Norway, or if the charts don't have the same significance, but England would do well to take a leaf out of Norway's book. I'd gladly trade in my indie credentials if it meant being able to hear St Thomas' tunes whilst queuing at the Post Office, riding in taxis and walking past building sites. Even the thought of becoming sick of the songs being overplayed on the radio turns me on. But then, maybe old Travis fans thought like that once.

The show closed with a raucous performance of Born Again, the debut album's opener. Percussion came in the form of anything the floppy haired bassist could beat two blocks of wood with - the stage, the monitors, even his own limbs. It was like watching Jonny Greenwood re-enact the opening sequence of 2001:A Space Odyssey - fantastic. Meanwhile Hansen really let himself go, performing a spasmodic Norwegian dance and lyrically inviting the audience to 'hang out with the new kids.' St Thomas and his band are the New Kids, and this song is a rallying call.

As is the way with many European bands trying to make an impact on these shores, St Thomas' live show has fallen out of synch with the availability of his music. Tonight we were treated to a set featuring mainly songs from his forthcoming album, I'm Coming Home. But with its release date nearly three months away, more material from his current LP may have been a wiser move, so those in attendance could go home and really get into the stunning songs that were left buzzing in their brains. It would be a crying shame if they lose interest by the time it's released in early 2002.

CHRIS WEBB.



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