Concert Review by Kris Griffiths
The latest hopeful to follow the line in the one-man-band brigade of the last few years is a little Norwegian fellow called Magnet, also known as Even Johansen. Analogically speaking, while the likes of Badly Drawn Boy and the Mull Historical Society fanfare the frontline with big bass drums and brass, Magnet would be tiptoeing behind in the sonic slipstream, lightly blowing on a piccolo. That said though, for a man whose biggest recent achievement is an appearance on the cover CD of X-Ray Magazine, his appearance slots in nicely at tonight’s lo-fi extravaganza descending like mist on Shepherds Bush, London.
The ‘warm-up’ act for Latino diva Bebe Gilberto, Magnet initially looks a lonely man trudging to the front of the barren Empire stage ahead of a sea of people thirsty for chill-out. He doesn’t disappoint in that respect, slowly seating himself in a chair and easing into a gentle ballad while a big screen behind him flickers with reflective imagery. Things become incongruous, however, when the balladry remains constant but the screen starts showing clips of surfing and skateboarding. Bemused sideways glances appear in the crowd.
Perhaps picking up on this, Johansen attempts to liven things up by getting everyone to raise their arms and taking a photo of them. Once is fine, but when he does this again towards the end of the set, it feels like he’s a holiday entertainer getting the audience to wave their arms about to make them think they’re having a good time. The effect is reversed – it looks like he’s trying his hardest to enjoy the moment because no one else is. Maybe he realised he shouldn’t have left out from his set the two best tracks on his debut album ON YOUR SIDE: the Xfm-rated THE DAY WE LEFT TOWN and the pleasing Bob Dylan cover LAY LADY LAY.
Settling instead for eyelid-droopers like OVERJOYED, Magnet guarantees that his departure from the stage is a relieving one. It’s a shame because the boy has talent. He just needs to subtract the silly sport clips, the between-song tomfoolery and the chair, and add a couple of his better tunes, all of which should make his allure that little bit more, well, magnetic.