22 @ Camden Barfly-11

Live: 22, Camden Barfly, 17/05/11

Arriving at a far-less-than-half-empty Camden Barfly at 5 minutes till stage time might not fill any particular punter currently in attendance, with confidence, that tonight’s show will go off without any snags or snag-related incident. Making their first bold steps into uncharted territory in a marketing sense, Norway’s 22, already musical stalwarts on the continental mainland, are here to perform for the first time (we think…) in London, aided in no small part by recently signing to Channelfly-imprint Best Before Records, thus marking a notable step up in the band’s global career. Add to this that today is in fact Norway Day, a national holiday in the band’s native homeland, coupled with the fact that there are a number of big American acts in the nearby vicinity – Queens Of The Stone Age are playing across the road at The Roundhouse, Mona at the Electric Ballroom and White Denim having just announced they are playing a “secret”  show at the Flowerpot – and this may all lead one to believe that the pressure to deliver this evening is very much on, at least in the minds of the band themselves. Instantly, one would be proven completely wrong; as soon as the band take to the stage, accompanied by a strange computerised voice on the PA counting up from 1 to 22 on a continuous loop, the room is practically completely full with fans, some of whom (so our mad eavesdropping abilities tell us) have actually come all the way from Norway for the opportunity to see one of their favourite homegrown acts playing in a much smaller setting than they would otherwise be able. They’ve brought little flags and everything.

Regardless of the hometurf support the band have ended up playing to, the band do not appear to be willing to leave anything to chance this evening; throughout the 20-odd minute set, both guitarist and bassist have presumably mastered the skill of omnipresence, as they are quite literally everywhere tonight – both onstage and off. Delivering a barrage of songs including fan favourites Plastik and I Am That I Am with that frenetic energy that they already have a reputation for, the set consists of powerful yet articulate jangled spikey guitar tones riddled with incredibly gentle vocal melodies and deafening, powerful double-kick drumming; think Evanescence if they had decided to ditch whatsherface and go all Refused and a bit Lamb Of God on your ass, although even this fails to properly describe the genre that 22 are coming from, whatever that might be. In envisaging where these guys may end up in the not-too-distant future, one might surmise that the band are not quite metal enough for the metal kids; yet not quite safe enough for the mainstream indie. However, this is far from being a bad thing – particularly in modern times when it is that much more difficult to grasp onto something that is not only truly novel, but also exciting, this is precisely why 22 are the most relevant thing to happen to alternative music since The Shape Of Punk To Come dropped on our heads all those years ago. With constant cries for encores and chants of the band’s name from the enthralled crowd following the set, we really get the impression that we aren’t alone in feeling we could quite happily breathe in this fresh, energising air for quite some time to come.

Words: Achal Dhillon.

Picture: Edu Fiend Photography

With thanks to Mark James @ Devil PR and Anthony Shaw @ Best Before.

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