Nordic Giants at Talking Heads, Southampton - live review

Secretive post-rock duo amplifies the audience's human vibrations on Halloween!

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(Image: © Katja Ogrin)

Nordic Giants are among the most enigmatic and visually fascinating post-rock outfits, so the idea of this soulful duo beginning their Amplify Human Vibration tour at the Talking Heads on Halloween is one that sends Southampton’s prog fanatics into an excited frenzy. On a night that celebrates the darkly mysterious and the elaborately costumed, the two men known only as Loki and Rôka fit right in with their avian outfits and tribal masks, disguised by darkness as they take to their small stage.

Their enrapturing performance is gradually lulled to life with the slow-building Evolve Or Perish, the dulcet tones of Nordic Giants’ guttural percussion and heartfelt keyboards punctuated by, and perfectly integrated with, the emotive short films projected onto their backdrop. Such extracts as Mischa Rozema’s apocalyptic Sundays and the black comedy This Way Up are especially effective, connected in their notably depressive tone and wickedly subversive nature.

Monologues from historical greats ranging from Charlie Chaplin to Martin Luther King, Jr unite with the often heart‑wrenching visuals to very quickly craft a theme of unity and togetherness against the corruption and the injustices of the world.

All the while, Nordic Giants themselves maintain their shroud of blackness, the entire stage dimly lit to allow the visual backdrop to guide the ebb and flow of the evening. The affair feels akin to the halcyon days of early-1900s silent cinema, with charismatic clips being given their emotional weight by live, predominantly unseen musicians.

This façade only breaks during the tranquil openings of such tracks as the remix of Dark Clouds Mean War, during which Rôka stands with his feather-laden, bowed guitar. It’s during these slow, patient moments that the lighting of the show becomes beyond exceptional.

Throughout the evening, the ambient lighting has played a key role in the band’s presentation: the dim, shifting blues, purples and greens serve as the sole illumination for the two onstage, maintaining their cryptic aura. As Rôka stands with his guitar, however, he’s lit from beneath with a gorgeous red that counteracts the cold colours behind him.

Whenever Nordic Giants’ drummer stands up and slings his second instrument around his neck, tonight’s large crowd know that they’re in for yet another visual treat.

However, with that said, the entirety of Nordic Giants’ Halloween can be described as a visual treat. From the short films being played on-screen to the lighting to the musicians’ animalistic and eye-catching attire, every aspect of this duo’s awe-inspiring performance remains just as embedded in the brain as their magnificently orchestral music.