Writing and Photography by Bobby Talamine
Edited by Fiza Javid
The Salt Shed Chicago
Fever Ray, with opener Christeene.
Quite the combination of all things performance art.
Coming form different perspectives- sure.
But performance art nevertheless.
Christeene's set is minimal, flanked by her synths / sample keyboardist stage right, and her saxophone player stage left.
Christeene commands the stage front and center, sometimes highlighted on her plastic case to elevate everything genre bending, everything that's renegade, front and center.
Eight songs total to commend, eight songs total to prove the point of reckless and uninhibited abandonment.
All of her set though, carefully thought out, and from the heart believe it or not.
She has lots to say between songs, nothing scripted, nothing planned, down to her opinions on Chicago style hot dogs, and specifically Celery Salt, compared to say, Bath Salts.
It's wicked stand up humor, and it does bring the laughs of support, again, because there's nothing fake about Christeene- she's making up as she goes along her own world of righteous abandon, down to the multiple shedding of colorful onesies for this and that song.
Christeene has been a mainstay of New York's underground club scene for awhile now, developing her performance art with in your face reckoning, take it or leave it style.
That kind of fierce reckoning only adds to the confidence of power, a power to act in a way that's uninhibited, both in performance, and in actual lyric.
The songs- "AKTION TOILET". "GUTT IT". "BEAUCOUP MOROCCO". "BUTT MUSCLE". All the way to the last: "FIX MY DICK". All in caps the way it read on the setlist. All in caps to show action, and the for the feint of heart- there's the exits.
The image of Christeene, like the wicked child from the Exorcist, kinda, but not really- more like the facial makeup is warpaint style, down to the choice of eye lenses that look ill fitting.
But again, that's the point with Christeene. She makes it known that all of this in your face performing, juggernaut style, is a way for you to ask questions, find some happiness in letting out anger, try to feel some sense of normalcy in a raging world gone wrong through "Woke this", "Woke that".
Her points throughout are well taken, especially hearing her demeanor throughout her set, a Brooklyn- ish feminine take on all matters of life.
Have to say the yin and yang of it all is downright captivating.
Only better things to come in my opinion- if given a bigger budget when it come to performance, all the better to unleash the hounds of confrontational, ever expressing yet again- "Don't fear art. Don't fear art of any kind".
As for Fever Ray- a whole nother world of sophisticated and artistic performance art, at a level of seduction and restrained and captivating exotica immersed in seductive beats, presented in a way to transfix, and move and send out spells and sway to the mighty beat.
Yes, that sentence is a lot to take in, but meaningful, nevertheless.
This is complex art, coming from Fever Ray, showing deliberate flaws in makeup, choice of clothing with two sizes too large suits, let alone choice of color of said two piece suit and tie.
The keen perceptions of "Not standing out", well, make you stand out.
Imagine being on the Red Line CTA train, northbound, out from the subway at North and Clybourn, heading up the metal tracks, during rush hour, heading to the Fullerton Station. You have roughly ten minutes or so to observe fellow passengers on said train, and it's still sunny out.
Towards the back of the train, standing, you see someone dressed like Fever Ray and fellow bandmates. What's the first perception? Artistic in nature? Down and out? Coming from a low level impromptu theatre group, and no time to change? Can you give a second look? First assumptions- always the wrong assumptions, without having a sincere conversation with the said individual.
Any conversation like that would have to be overcoming anxieties and fears, let alone the release of second guessing.
I bring this up because individuals like this, artistically inclined, yet kind of starving, living hand to mouth, paycheck to paycheck, or maybe a once a month commission of some sort, are everywhere around you, and have been since- ages.
Just look at Basquiat as a fine example of this.
Had you not known his relevance and history, prior to becoming a famous artist, and you bumped into him on the street, you wouldn't even give him notice- assumptions ever present.
So with Fever Ray, it's deliberate, they/them view of things, and how to present said songs, after pivoting from The Knife.
I obviously have no proof of all of this- this is clearly my take on perceptions- perceptions while performing, perceptions from album release art, perceptions from promo photos.
Like all good performance artists, and exceptional musicians- I have questions.
Questions such as visions of an older male, with bald head, and disfigured makeup.
Questions of looking beyond the visual, and attempt at conversion, with the deliberate portrayal of defects.
Rising above defects to show the art from within.
All of this is captivating, and well worth mentioning when hearing they/them songs performed live, and presented the way they were.
There was a change of plans, when entering The Salt Shed, and getting notice of which songs we were allowed to photograph.
The head of security at The Salt Shed laid down the rules- "Songs 6, 7 & 8 from the pit only". "Songs 1 though 5, from the back of the house".
Not your usual first three, then gone kinda vibe.
But again, it's Fever Ray, they/them rules. And I have to say, song six- "To the Moon and Back", presented so delicately, with a few roses, and a stance from Fever Ray that was stationary, yet exhibiting sensual front and back movement, before dispersing of the roses was downright captivating, and just so memorable.
Same goes with the seventh song "Shiver", Fever Ray bathed in red, surrounded by backup singers, swaying left and right to the beat.
And same with song eight- "Kandy", alone, under the streetlamp with heavy and isolated backlit lighting.
All of this, not just songs 6 through 8, the whole entire set, a production worthy of theatrical and sophisticated intent, presented heartfully, somewhat dialed down, but provocative, nevertheless.
Fever Ray is a shape shifter, a shape shifter of the highest order, worthy of your attention, up there with Bjork, up there with present day Mitski.
A "make do with what ya got" kind of artist- where, if given a room of odds and ends and knick knacks, they/them could make the room come to life, all of those interesting things, whether normal or not, speaking to they/them to come to life, and find useful- please don't discard.
To me, visions like that, are of the highest order, witnessing art in everything, even everything mundane.
I could go on and on about this- to the point of sitting down with some of you over coffee and discuss further.
Have been pondering multiple drafts on this review, how to comprehend, how to proceed, what to discuss.
I chose this option because of the all inclusive gloriousness of they/them art, and my take on they/them's vision, related to the songs, and presented as such.
The setlist- some 16 songs total, ending with "Coconut".
And in my opinion, it wasn't enough.
This show, with Fever Ray- could've gone on into the wee hours, with maybe a half hour break for a deep breath.
Fever Ray was THAT good.
Bobby Talamine - JBTV Music Television Chicago
Fever Ray, Christeene, The Salt Shed, JBTV Music Television, Jerry Bryant, Bobby Talamine, Fiza Javid, Live Music, Chicago