On one of the windiest nights in a while (February 21), Agnes Obel opened to a sold out show at the Great Hall. People sat two to a seat, there was such a premium on room. The show began with a short promotion for Massey Hall, the sponsors of the event, and subsequently the demographic was of an older kind. The kind that tell you to be quiet and sit down when you see someone you know and get really squealy excited for a good minute or so, for example.
The band Feral & Stray opened, a solo act with guitar and assorted odd instruments. Her performance itself was not really a surprise, or a new thing, and her guitar dwarfed her, but she had the calm, quiet, soothing radio voice that added to her delicate vocals.
Agnes Obel littered the stage with her enormous piano (possibly actually the Great Hall’s massive piano) and cello and violin, and filled the room with her instrumental opening and her husky, jazzy voice. In an instant, each individual in the crowd was lost in memories of dark, rainy streets, romance, heartbreak, and betrayal, and it’s true Obel’s music is pretty dark and haunting. Her expertly controlled vocals and perfect timing were strongly reminiscent of Regina Spektor, with strong elements of classical intertwining with beautiful melodies.
Picture driving on a country road at night, you’re in a black tunnel with nothingness outside, and just the deepness of Obel’s voice, like the swell of an ocean, to let you know that you’re still present, you haven’t just drifted off into sleep. Brief moments like that exist in music, I spoke of saudade in a previous article, and this was the same feeling.
The cellist and violinist were harmonious, with deep plucking, sweet slides, melancholic crescendos and dramatic finishes, and they played with Obel on stage, the back and forth between the three was like banter. There was a mutual respect and a simplicity, an ease at which the three women created their music. It was captivating to watch, and created, ultimately, a sad melancholia, while lyrically Obel was quite impressive; there was no force required to make the words match the music to cultivate this mood.
Playing songs from her first as well as her current records not only demonstrated her remarkable skill, and just how talented she was as a fledgling musician (and still is today), but also an element of sentimentality, which permeates through in all her songs. It’s sometimes difficult to connect with a musician emotionally with all the bright lights of music and the stage and fame, but when a singer can bring to the fore this element of connection with the audience, the effect is sure to be felt for days.
For an interview with Agnes Obel, click here.
Emily Fox | @foxyfoxe