Concert Review: Agnes Obel @ Harbourfront Centre – Toronto

Agnes Obel
The room, the attentive hushed crowd, brilliance on stage. These attributes, when unified, turn a live show to a transcending experience. Those in attendance to see Agnes Obel could attest to such rare bliss.

Hometown darlin Jennifer Castle served up her exquisite style of poetry in songs, which was more vibrant courtesy of a muted crowd and subtly lit dark room. There were no distractions, as Castle strummed through tunes from past and recent works. Her subtle pan gaze and eyes filled with wonder furthered the enigma around the performance. A single lit candle on stage and electric guitar on hand, Castle excelled in the spotlight with stunning renditions of ‘Truth is the Freshest Fruit’, ‘Sailing Away’ and ‘Pink City’ from the recent release of the same name. Castle’s liberating voice and the words, rightfully so, were the true stars of the opening set.

Perfectionists always aim to do better. And Agnes Obel is a perfectionist. “Our goal is to surpass ourselves from last night”, admitted Obel, speaking of last of 2 nights at the elegant Harbourfront Centre. Joined by a cello and violin, the Danish via Berlin singer/songwriter began the set with sheer instrumental bliss, before introducing her amorous voice during ‘Beast’. The set continued with gems from her debut Philarmonics and the follow up Aventine. Aside from her exemplary command of the piano, Obel’s mastery of her voice, the other instrument, was truly transformative. The junction of classical and modernism was evident throughout the night, as Mika Posen (Timber Timbre) and Anne Müller (cello) successfully managed to replicate the intricate sounds of the record via looping and effects. The stunned attendees absorbed in every ounce of greatness in the room, as Obel stretched her own comfort zone with a rare performance of an Elliot Smith cover.

Regardless of your familiarity with her music, Obel’s show was a celebration of live music. It served as a reminder, that whether your listening format is mp3 or vinyl, nothing can ever surpass the ethereal allure of the live experience.

Review by Nilabjo Banerjee |

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