With Copenhagen Street just around the corner from Kings Place, the venue seemed just the spot, if street name coincidence is your thing that is, for the London debut of Danish five-piece Girls In Airports on Saturday night. Hall two of the plush venue filled rapidly for the band, which has now released a pair of albums, the first of which gave the band its name, and the second Migration – with its melody-laden elegiac hooks, Ethio-jazz, and you’d swear there was the sound of a cowbell there somewhere – its growing reputation. Big saxman Martin Stender dressed in white dismissing by his sartorial code at least the ongoing and ineffably ‘curious’ fascination over here with Nordic noir by dressing doggedly against type as if he were some sort of out-of-place New Romantic, was pleased even his aunt had made it to Kings Cross to be in the audience, and professed himself so much a fan of British comedy he refrained from telling jokes.
Arriving with the arch imprimatur of Britain’s own purveyor of sonic wisecracks Django Bates, formerly a professor at the Rhythmic Conservatory in Copenhagen, the Danes returned his thumbs up with this knowingly short set that ably demonstrated the wisdom that technique does not override in the least bit strong ideas, improvising intent, and good tunes as here. Mathias Holm on Rhodes and Roland Juno 60 keys was the main driving force behind the band, smilingly silent but deadly at the back crouched at his instrument as if knitting, with the band in a sewing circle around him, an orchestra himself with his effects and sonic twists, bass one minute, conjuring authentic guitar sounds the next against the chilly clank of Rhodes now de rigueur in any self respecting hipster’s arsenal. Girls in Airports are a bit like Polar Bear with a two-sax attack; for Mark Lockheart read the other saxophonist, Lars Greve, who also played suitably sheepish clarinet and floated in and out on tenor, or sometimes alto sax to finish Stender’s phrases, or chime in unison with him riffing against Holm. The band had a breathlessness and natural instinct that makes a refreshing change from the earnest approach of some bands setting out, populated with young blokes not yet able to shave properly who wouldn’t recognise a girl in an airport unless she had a name badge on her coat with the word ‘girl’ written on it in felt tip, sadly.
The tunes are GIA’s strength and ‘Pirates and Tankers’ was the standout, deep in Mulatu Astatke territory, dance friendly and good for the jazz boffins as well who could slum it by enjoying the band's great timing, although second song in ‘Myanmar’ showed how the band has built and developed a song that on record is quite skeletal and a little bit wet. Girls In Airports keep it simple although deceptively so, and with percussionist Victor Dybbroe the rakishly moustachioed equivalent of the Happy Mondays' Bez albeit with only a bit of swaying about adding great touches on tiny bells and what sounded like a sawn-off balofon, and the Tom Skinner-like drumming of Mads Forsby a definite plus. Let's hope they come back to play the jazz club circuit soon.
– Stephen Graham