22-year-old singer/songwriter AURORA first caught my attention with her Tiny Desk Concert back in 2015, which opened with an acoustic version of her hit song ‘Runaway’. I was floored by the honesty of the performance, not only her achingly beautiful voice but the hand movements conducting, coaxing the notes up from somewhere deep down. She now has two albums, with another on the way this year, and her promotion to First Ave Mainroom from 7th Street Entry, 3 years ago, just goes to show that the Norwegian artist’s fame is growing worldwide! When I saw she was coming to town on February 27th, I knew I had to go see her perform live, and I was hoping I wouldn’t be let down by a mediocre show (spoiler alert: I wasn’t).
I arrived at 7:50, just as the opener, Talos, was starting. The real strength of this group is their secondary percussionist, who helped bring the sound of the band away from the expected, adding a richness that made the music feel like an epic soundtrack to a movie like “The Fellowship of the Ring”. The band mostly played music from their newest album, ‘Far Out Dust’, available on all streaming platforms. Frontman Eoin French has a laid-back air about him, but this only adds to the almost mythological feeling of the music. He is not up on stage bouncing around, running back and forth, but rather stands stoically behind the microphone, only really moving his body to the music when he bends down to play a synth. My favorite song the band played in their 45 minute set was “The Light Upon Us” from ‘Far Out Dust’. This song encapsulates everything I love about Talos: A heart-wrenchingly honest message, a James Blake-esque falsetto vocal melody, and an epic half-time beat that really makes you want to tackle any obstacle thrown your way (or maybe go run up a mountain)!
“He told me I belong in a churchyard
He told me I could walk away but I wouldn’t get far
Tell me how do people know what is hurt, what is love?
He told me I belong in a churchyard”
The hook of this explodes in a frenzied drumbeat and AURORA vocalizing a percussive “hede, hedo, hede, homma” during which AURORA really showed what the show was going to be like as she thrashed her head back and forth and danced like she had been possessed, her hands reaching out into the air, grasping.
The pink and purple lights of First Ave reflected off of four giant jellyfish hanging above the stage, giving the feeling that we, as the audience, were trapped in some sort of dream-state in which logic didn’t apply: the giant jellyfish, the larger than life voice emanating from this small, Norwegian body, the audience singing along with every word, many in tears.
During several points in the show, AURORA would talk between songs. She mentioned at one point that she had been reading about penguins before coming onstage in the hopes of sharing some fun facts with us, but “all the facts were boring facts”. This exemplifies the relationship she has with her fans: one of equality. In her eyes, she is not some larger than life pop entity with burgeoning world fame, she is merely a young girl who, to her surprise it seems, reaped the rewards of years of focused work and drive. So when members of the audience would hold out gifts to her onstage, she seemed genuinely taken aback and appreciative. This happened four times during the show, as members of the audience would hold out handmade gifts for her and she would take them with a high-pitched “thank you! It’s beautiful, I will set them over here next to my shoes. They’re new so they don’t smell!” Such an honest, friendly and genuinely likable pop star is not so easily come by.
AURORA filled her hour-long set with a mix of tunes from her first album, 2016’s All My Demons Greeted Me As a Friend, this past year’s Infections of a Different Kind (Step 1) and her most recent single, Animal. Her song “Warrior”, from her first album, felt like the feminist anthem that I predict will explode this year. The 2016 song really predicted the rise of songs written by, and for, powerful women. And speaking off feminist anthems, “Queendom” from (Step 1) had everyone in the crowd (not just the women) singing along, arms raised in solidarity, and many a tear-soaked cheek. AURORA not only put on a beautiful, honest show; she put on a show for women, for lovers, for people who feel like the world is on fire and the only cure is to be wonderful and kind to one another. From the audience’s gifts, to the tears shed, to the innocence of her between-song banter, AURORA provided an hour of escapism, an hour of letting stress and fear of the future fade away into pure, unadulterated love.