Music review: Fever Ray and Mo’Ju, RISING Festival, Hamer Hall

Cult act Fever Ray returns triumphantly to Australia.
A concert setting, The lead singer, all in white, but with a pink tie, is standing in front of a microphone with their head thrust back.

This reviewer only learned that Mo’Ju was the support act for Fever Ray shortly before the gig, and the pairing of these two acts proved to be a powerful and entertaining night of contemporary music.

Mo’Ju is a local act whose star continues to rise. In their 40-minute opening set, the First Nations artist drew parallels between the plight of occupied territories here in so-called Australia and abroad, delivering a powerful political message in support of Palestine. 

Anyone who has seen Mo’Ju perform will know that the strength in their political messaging is matched by their powerhouse vocals and musical stylings.  As they powered through their set, a particular highlight was the stirring ‘Native Tongue’, which lifted the roof off Hamer Hall. 

Mo’Ju continued to break the binary and delivered hit after hit. As an artist they are unafraid of forging their own path in the industry. With a growing push for international touring acts to program local artists as support acts, this opening for Fever Ray was a perfect example of that concept in action. 

All good things come to those who wait and Australia has waited a long time for Fever Ray to grace us with their enigmatic presence. It’s been 15 years and three albums to be precise. In 2019 the Swedish artist released their self-titled debut album, followed by 2017’s Plunge and, most recently, 2023’s Radical Romantics.

Fever Ray treated the audience to tracks from each of these three albums. Tightly woven and beautifully crafted, this was two hours of absolute power. With the artist whipping the audience into a frenzy, the sold-out Hamer Hall crowd was up on its feet and dancing in the aisles. It was a borderline occult experience as Fever Ray wove their dark queer magic.

Read: Dance Review: Nocturnal, Subiaco Arts Centre

It’s impossible to place the singer in a single genre; their distinct blend of Goth Caribbean synth pop was as incredible live as it is when listening to their recorded material. So often we see our favourite acts in the flesh and they just don’t live up to our expectations. Somehow, Fever Ray bucked this trend; live, they are as good, if not better, than their studio recordings.

Founder and vocalist Karin Dreijer (one half of The Knife) was joined on stage by their band and two backup singers/dancers. In between more fevered passages, this trio broke into moments of choreographed dance that definitely helped ground this performance.

Thanks in part to the success of the television series Vikings, Fever Ray used their most well known track, ‘If I Had A Heart’ – the series’ theme song – as a dramatic climax to the performance. 

Following the set, a single encore was performed, and the lights then came up.

In retrospect, this gig felt like one that people will be talking about for years to come, maybe due to the way Dreijer and their band shook off the stately environment of Hamer Hall and, in the process, transported the audience to somewhere more akin to a heaving nightclub.

The question remains, however: did RISING program Fever Ray in the right venue? It was clear that the front of house staff lost control of the audience, and it felt like the performance teetered on the edge of becoming unsafe.

Still, the wild and reckless abandon that swept across a crowd under Fever Ray’s spell will continue to be a very special moment that this reviewer will treasure for years to come.

Fever Ray
Supported by Mo’Ju
Hamer Hall, Melbourne
9-10 June 2024 as part of RISING Festival

Jessi Ryan (they/them) has been creating performance and exhibitions for the past 20 years, both locally, nationally and abroad- in this time collaborating with a huge number of artists from a broad cross section of cultural backgrounds. As a journalist they have written for and been published by some of Australia’s leading arts and news editorial across the last 10 years-and was recognised as a finalist for Globe Community Media Award in 2021. Ryan has also taken photos for a number of print and online publications.