Nordic Music Central Viking Hero

LIVE review – Girl Scout (Sweden) @ Canvas, Manchester, 30 September 2023

One of the reasons I decided to give Match of the Day a miss along with the rest of Saturday night’s TV viewing is that precious few Nordic artists and bands are coming to the UK these days and of those that do, most just play a London show and call that a ‘UK tour’.

So kudos to Girl Scout, who are in the midst of a 26-show tour across northern Europe, which includes 14 in the length and breadth of the UK. And here they are, supporting a UK band, Coach Party. That’s the way to do it, folks.

Another reason was to see what state the Gorilla venue is in after being closed for months while Network Rail repairs the embankment it lives under so that a train doesn’t crash through the ceiling during a show. That work must still be going on because the gig was moved to Canvas, a venue in the newish development, Circle Square, where the BBC used to be.

And it’s a nice, airy place, perhaps lacking the fetid ‘atmosphere’ that exists in the Gorilla dungeon but with an excellent air conditioning system, something which Gorilla could never boast. If I had a quid for every person I’ve seen carried out of there I’d be a millionaire.

I wasn’t too familiar with Girl Scout, which is a fairly new band even if they’ve had a lot of exposure, formed out of the pandemic and a dearth of activity in singer/guitarist Emma Jansson’s usual world of jazz.

She, guitarist Viktor Spasov (he sounds like a Russian chess player, don’t you think, or perhaps a James Bond film spy, although he has the look of Noel Gallagher?) and bassist Evelina Arvidsson Eklind are graduates of the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, which is currently home to recent NMC interviewee Johanna Brun as regular readers will know. The place is getting a lot of publicity here for sure.

The formal ‘academic’ route is increasingly a way of getting into rock music especially, it seems, for those with a jazz academic background. Immediately, Highasakite and Pom Poko spring to mind – especially the latter – both having the spontaneity and interaction with their crowds which suits their music.

And that live show panache applies equally to Girl Scout, in the form of Emma and Viktor, while Evelina, one of the two quieter, less dramatic members along with Per Lindberg on drums, provide a solid rhythm section over which the dynamic duo strut their stuff.

Emma and Evelina harmonise extremely well, while Emma’s vocal is particularly effective in the higher ranges, her jazz training and experience ticking all the boxes where timing, rhythm and phrasing are concerned.

Their songs tell tales of childhood, families and romances. ‘Mothers and Fathers’ for example is about getting divorced and Emma made her feelings on the subject as plain as can be with the repeated mantra even before it got going, “be happy, don’t fight, choose divorce”. You get the impression that, one way or another, she’s been there.

And they do it in two main styles, namely, loosely indie rock and power ballads and which occasionally overlap. Within the eight song set I found a couple of the early ones to be a little formulaic, slow burning shoe gazers that never really ignited on stage, but as it progressed the momentum built up rapidly as it got rockier and even punkier by the minute.

During ‘Weirdo’ came the first of several explosive guitar shreds from Viktor, another one supporting Emma’s disappearance into the mosh pit in I just needed you to know’. I have a hunch that harder rock will be their future.

Now having said that there wasn’t much of a mosh pit early on but by the end of the set there most definitely was, partly on account of the blistering pace of I just needed you to know’ and show closer ‘Do you remember Sally Moore?’ and partly because Emma ordered, rather than invited, the two main dancers into the middle of the floor to encourage others to join in, which they promptly did.

Not a woman to be messed with. And since I’ve already mentioned Noel Gallagher it wouldn’t be inopportune to say she has a similar attitude that of ‘our kid’, brother Liam, if you know what I mean.

There is a legion of band comparisons to be found online, but Girl Scout distinctly remind me of Sløtface in their heyday and ‘Sally Moore’ could be ‘Nancy Drew.’ There are very few young frontwomen with the confidence and charisma to match Haley Shea, or Das Body’s Ellie Linden. Emma Jansson is one of them.

They released their second EP during the tour; it is called ‘Granny Music’. Who knows, ‘Grammy Music’ might turn out to be more apt.

I hope to see them back in Manchester soon and headlining venues like this, which they fully justify.

There are few videos yet of them performing live. This is ‘Bruises’, which is a track on ‘Granny Music’ but which did not feature in the show and one of the power ballads I mentioned earlier.

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