Major Parkinson + Peri Winkle
Saturday 15th October 2022
Boston Music Room, London
Major Parkinson, the Norwegian seven-piece Prog Rock band have not toured the UK since 2019, so it is with some excitement that I managed to secure a band that I had not encountered before but also a new venue for me as well. As someone who grew up listening to A-Ha in their early teens, I was keen to sample a band renowned for their Nordic eccentricity as well as their mixture of Hard Rock and a synth drenched dream-Pop style that they demonstrate on their latest album, 'Valesa – Chapter 1: Velvet Prison'.
We are first treated to Peri Winkle, the violinist and co-lead vocalist of the group, doing a support trio with drummer Sondre Veland and synth player Lars Christian Bjørknes. This allows an opportunity for the only non-Norwegian (she’s Welsh) member of the band to let her personality shine through. Her sprightly movements have that pixie-like Bjork zaniness but alloyed to some intense violin bowing (the evidence can be seen in the frayed bow strings) and candy dream Pop vocals over a backing of breakbeats and at times fierce drumming; a lot of extreme dynamics going on here. Miraculously this dichotomy of sound works better live than it reads on page and gets the blood pumping ready for when the full band deliver their set.
Luckily, all I knew of Major Parkinson was a cursory listening of their aforementioned album on YouTube, which I liked on first hearing. Their new material appears to be a radical departure from their previous album 'Blackbox', hailed as one of the albums of the year in 2017 in some parts of the music press. Since their new material is so different it has divided many fans but there is a large enough section today in the crowd that applaud the fact that the band have strived to create something new and exploratory.
Jon Ivar Kollbotn on lead retains his trademark growly vocal style which occasionally breaks into a recitative delivery, what seems to be different is Peri Winkle’s voice, as demonstrated in her earlier set, which is pure saccharine Pop worthy of an all-girl Pop band, this not only adds a welcome contrast but the synth backing gives some of their tracks an 80s quality. The best examples of this are on 'Saturday Night' and 'Live Forever' which is reminiscent of A-ha’s 'Scoundrel Days' album, the difference is the darker tone supplied by Jon’s phrasing and lyrics and the beautiful sweep of the violin. 'Fantasia Me Now' has an eerily similar intro to Queen’s 'Radio Gaga' but again the duel between Jon and Peri puts one in mind of the Human League, indeed they even quote 1987 in the lyrics.
What is remarkable is the almost schizophrenic-contrasts in this set, songs like 'Behind the Next Door' and 'Jonah' recall the dark, sombre tones of latter-day Nick Cave, accompanied by evocative piano playing. To cap this off for an encore they move into pure vaudeville with a demented song about Jon’s experiences of working in a mental asylum called 'Take the Prescription' and another song where Peri transforms her voice into the haunted shoe-gaze of the Cocteau Twins.
To judge how the tempo increased during the set, imagine how Jon first appeared at first in a three-piece suit but at stages stripped off the jacket and the waistcoat, to be reduced to a black vest by the end, reflecting the gusto of the tunes and a response to the audience energy. Thoroughly blown away by the performance, I feel it is now time for me to listen to 'Blackbox' to confirm this band’s greatness.
Ivan De Mello