Review | Agnes Obel

agnes obel

Photo Credit: Agnes Obel

Agnes Obel, O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, November 26 2016

It’s rare these days at gigs in London to garner total silence from an audience. Danish singer-songwriter Agnes Obel achieves this each time a new song plays out from the stage at London’s O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire tonight. Flanked by a band of women dressed all in white, the visual effect strikes an other-worldly chord. As each song closes the rapturous applause begins.

Obel released the wonderful Citizens of Glass this year, the follow-up to 2013’s Aventine, and we are treated to songs from both records this eveningThere are many love songs, but these are love songs with a catch, as Agnes tells us they are about jealousy, sadness or anger. New single ‘It’s Happening Again’ is dedicated to everyone who ever feels their life is “stuck in a loop”, before the repetitive rise and fall of the piano hooks us in, in an instant.

The compositional richness of Obel’s music is brought to life with strings, piano, clarinet, percussion and spine-tingling vocal harmonies, all woven together with wizardry and aural effects, as soundscapes are looped with effortless skill and dexterity.

Inbetween the drama and decadence of the performance, there comes the subtle quickwit and ironic humour of Obel’s interjections, as she softly speaks to the crowd. She jokes that she has to speak every. word. in. English. very. clearly. so that the crowd understand her, and speculates as to whether the band look like some kind of moon cult in their all-white attire.

Later on, the performance is embellished with the old artistry of ‘Philharmonics’ and ‘Fuel to Fire’. Each of these songs has the ability to captivate and transport the listener to a higher realm, the breathless feeling each time may be transient but the effect comes around again and again. What appear to be slow, sombre songs can gradually crescendo and burst into something much bigger, more beautiful and more sublime.

Agnes Obel has announced new 2017 dates, including her biggest headline London show to date at Camden’s Roundhouse on June 4.

May 13 Paris, Philharmonie
May 14 Paris, Philharmonie
May 16 Toulouse, Bikini
May 17 Bordeaux, Krakatoa
May 20 Liege, Forum
May 21 Utrecht, Ronda
May 24 Cologne, Gloria
May 25 Frankfurt, W-Fest
June 2 Hamburg, Elbjazz

Caroline Moors

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