A stickler for tradition, I eagerly anticipated a Friday night dinner of fish and chips round the corner from the Apollo before the gig. Unfortunately the preparation time seemed to include the catching of the fish, with the result that I only caught three songs of support act Jenny Wilson’s powerful electropop. Nonetheless, it was enough to confirm that she is a singer worth hearing, and despite the suffering that led to her latest album ‘Exorcism’, she radiated joy in her performance and, hopefully, recovery.

The second artist of what he called the night’s “Swedish invasion” was guitarist and singer Oskar Humiebo, leading his
trio Moto Boy. Though he self-deprecatingly described his voice as “fucked up”, he actually sounded fine, cleanly hitting some high notes that betrayed a distinct Jeff Buckley influence. Backed by a drummer and keyboard player, the set veered between highly competent pop and rock, all quite enjoyable while not ever feeling like it was going to catch fire. Yet you can imagine Humlebo becoming an enormous pop star, if he chose to exploit chiselled Scandivanian looks that rival Morten Harket’s.

His final announcement was to remind the audience that the Cardigans were still to come and that they had “a pretty good guitarist”. The latter turned out to be Humlebo himself of course, who has replaced founder member Peter Svensson since the band resumed touring in 2012. Enthusiastically greeted by a packed Apollo, the majority of the set was given over to a recreation of the entire ‘Gran Turismo’ album (evoked by tyre-topped pillars behind the band, through which lights shone). In fact they seemed genuinely moved by the audience’s warmth, bassist Magnus Sveningsson touching his heart in the manner of a Premier League footballer, except believable.

Despite, or maybe because of its now being twenty years old, Nina Persson sang songs like ‘Erase/Rewind’ and ‘My Favourite Game’ with undimmed zest even while wryly commenting on advancing age. The rest of the band were unshowy but solid. With their origins in a much harder rock style (evoked later on when one of the encores was Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’), and with these roots still remaining to some extent, Humlebo was able to squeeze in a few more moments of expressive guitar than he permitted himself as Moto Boy.

With ‘Gran Turismo’ dispatched, the rest of the set and the encores were largely a selection from the later albums ‘Long Gone Before Daylight’ and ‘Super Extra Gravity’, like the catchy ‘Live and Learn’ and the melancholy wisdom of ‘Don’t Blame Your Daughter’. However the crowning performance of the night (and probably the most keenly anticipated) was ‘Lovefool’. Unfortunately this was initially disrupted by an onstage power cut, actually the second of the night but Persson conducted the audience in a good-humoured singalong while the electricity was being restored, before they recommenced a spirited version – such super troupers.

Finishing with ’03:45 No Sleep’ (perhaps anticipating a deserved after-party), all the night’s artists then lined up onstage and joined hands, like a play’s curtain call rather than the end of a standard rock gig. It somehow seemed to evoke the spirit of the Cardigans’ songs – acknowledging the cold, but ultimately a comforting protection against it.

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