Top marks that were very well deserved.
There's a chance that Amiina are a bit better known than you would originally think. There may not be a lengthy list of Icelandic explosions in the UK music scene but in recent years, the joy and wonder of Sigur Ros have captivated the nation at times. Amiina supported Sigur Ros on a UK tour two years ago and also provided string additions to their live show, so the quality is obvious but the four girls proved that they have enough about them to become popular in their own right.
Even before they arrive on stage, the amount of instruments available for them to play would lead you to believe that The Polyphonic Spree may be about to make an appearance but no, everything there was for four Icelandic ladies.
A quick check of the Wikipedia page for the band indicates eighteen different instruments played by the band, and for a band of four, they made a brave attempt to play them all in the course of the set. Even mid song, the girls would lay down their instruments and wind their way to another part of the stage to take up a second instrument and add to the cacophony of sound that was going on.
One or two songs in, a thought came to mind about a similarity of Amiina to Kraftwerk. This may not sound like a compliment considering the robotic nature of the German legends but the impression that if Kraftwerk had their electricity rationed and could only use one or two power plugs, then Amiina would fit that bill tremendously.
There was a great charm about the band. At points, particularly when they were lined in a row at the back of the stage, the Kraftwerk image was reinforced and the inkling that the band was po-faced and serious could cross your mind, particularly given the high quality and gravitas of the music and instruments. However, thoughts of this were soon dispelled as the girls seemed to be really enjoying themselves and the looks they gave their sound engineer when they were showing concerns or surprise at some of their sounds were quite bewitching.
And what sounds they were. The sound of a violin bow on a saw, and the ensuing feedback from it, is a joy and one that is probably underdone in the musical world. It's good that more bands don't carry saws about with them (could you picture Pete Doherty being allowed a saw onstage?) but when used properly, it adds an arcing quality to the music. Another highlight was the call bells, which chimed, and again had the striding quality of Kraftwerk's 'Europe Endless'; the rhythmic sound almost mutating into a dance track, such was its beat.
Even further to that, using wine in glasses to create sound was another excellent trait of the evening. It's long been a TV trick but to use this sound-making device in the midst of a song and have it fit so expertly was highly commendable and a tremendous sight to behold.
Even the vocals were absolutely bewitching, the first few songs of the set were fully instrumental but by about half way through, each member lined up behind their mics and the melodies were very pleasing on the ear, proving that just sounds could be as important as lyrics. This was further shown when the lyrics did come through in their native tongue and they were no less captivating because, without a translation, it was impossible to gauge what the band was singing about.
Closing the set with 'The Birthday Song', preceded by a tale of how it got its live debut in the act's previous live show, the stunning loops and electronic glitches were an excellent way to close the evening and had some light dancing but vigorous swaying from the delighted crowd.
The encore may have lacked any firm songs but with all four girls playing a saw with a bow, and the ensuing hilarity and fun that came from that, it was a perfect end to an evening which exceeded all expectations.
They may have taken two bows on the evening but seriously, Hildur Ársælsdóttir, Edda Rún Ólafsdóttir, Maria Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir and Sólrún Sumarliðadóttir are all due another ovation for such an awe-inspiring set.
Is any gig the perfect set or really deserving of full marks? Nah, probably not but if only to try and make sure they get the exposure they deserve for their live show, full marks.