Previously at the Courtyard Theatre, Shoreditch: February 24th 2015.
To begin at the end, tears welled in my eyes during Aurora’s June 11th encore. As in February, the encore song was a cover of David Bowie’s Life on Mars. Where, in Bowie’s recording, the lawman beating up the wrong guy strikes me a throwaway line, signifying little, from Aurora’s lips it becomes an encapsulation of all the injustice in the world. Listening is an emotional experience.
Aurora was the singer who led me to start writing music reviews – this was the second time I’d seen her in concert. The previous occasion (also in Shoreditch) had been a free gig. Moved by her performance, I emailed a mini-review to a couple of friends who thought that I should post such things to the Internet. Here is that mini-review, somewhat edited, but fundamentally the same. Since (in essence) including two concerts in one review may confuse the reader, I will distinguish the earlier one with a different font colour.
It was brilliant – and very emotional. Aurora was excellent, but she’s also very young, bless her. (She said she’s 18, but seemed younger.) When she sang her first song, she was obviously very nervous, painfully so. Her body language made it clear. The room was full, and the crowd loved her. She was clearly both surprised and overwhelmed by the reaction. During the second song, she seemed more confident, but still concerned. A few songs later, I could see tears in her eyes – a reaction, I felt sure, to the warmth of the crowd.
She spoke to the audience, thanking us. The things she said were obviously unrehearsed, and not entirely coherent. She said something about coming to London where she has no fans… and then she corrected herself (obviously because of our enthusiasm): “well, I don’t know…” Later, she said: “I know it’s a free gig, but…” She didn’t complete her sentence – something, maybe, about not expecting such an appreciative audience.
Her band is very good, her voice entrancing. There were a couple of acoustic numbers. The whole set lasted about an hour and included two cover versions: Mr Tambourine Man and Bowie’s Life on Mars. Life on Mars was her encore (although there was only a short pause between the previous song and the Bowie number). I had the idea that it might have been an unplanned addition to the set – she sang it accompanied only by her keyboard player. [The idea of an unplanned addition is almost certainly wrong – Life on Mars was again Aurora’s encore three and half months later.] During Mr Tambourine Man, she broke off, and said that she’d missed a bit out (I’m sure none of us noticed). Did we want her to backtrack and sing the missing lines? Of course, we did want that, and made it very clear that we did.
As I’ve said, it was very emotional. At one point, tears trickled down my cheeks, which doesn’t happen at every gig I attend. In part, that was a reaction to the beauty of her voice, and in part a reaction to her obvious emotions.
After Aurora’s February gig, I searched for her CDs on the Internet. (I don’t do music downloading. It baffles me: I don’t know where downloaded music goes, or what I’m supposed to do with it.) I could only find one Aurora CD on the entire Internet. It took me two weeks to find it – a CD with a single song: Puppet. As far as I could determine, it’s available solely from US Amazon. European versions of Amazon seem only to have downloads available (shame on them). A single song is certainly better than having no Aurora CD, so I ordered it from America. Here is the review I posted on Amazon.com (again, a necessary change of font colour to avoid confounding the reader):
I don’t disagree with the previous reviewer, who awarded only one star, yet I give the CD five stars. What, the reader may well wonder, is going on? This CD contains just one song, it’s a great song, beautifully sung, but that’s all there is. Priced at $9.99, it isn’t a bargain basement CD. In fact, it probably worked out more expensive for me than it did for the previous reviewer. I live in England, and had to pay for international shipping.
Unlike (I imagine) the previous reviewer, I recently had the great good fortune to attend one of Aurora’s live performances. The beauty of her voice sent tears trickling down my cheeks. She’s just eighteen years old, but already (it’s clear) she’s a very special talent. Later this year (2015), I believe, she is to release her first album. It will be, I’m perfectly sure, a superb debut. Until the album appears, this single track CD seems to be the only way to have Aurora’s voice on a physical disc. As far as I can tell, it’s available only in America – hence my ordering it from Amazon.com, rather than Amazon.co.uk.
I would say, buy this CD, listen to it, treasure it. It’s worth every cent, and more. In time to come, when the world at large appreciates Aurora’s talent, you can show your friends this disc with pride and tell them that you were listening to her before she was famous. And, if she’s never famous, it will be because insufficient people recognise excellence when they hear it. But you, astute CD buyer, will have heard and appreciated. So – buy, listen to and treasure this CD. I really don’t think you’ll regret it.
On the April 15th, the June 11th concert was announced – and I lost no time in booking my ticket. So, I was looking forward to seeing Aurora again for almost two months.
Taking the stage at the end of that time, she struck me as more confident than she had been in February, but still vulnerable. The sense of vulnerability stems, at least in part, from the self-evident depth of emotion she pours into the songs. She seems to me to sing as much with her eyes as her voice. They are very blue, and very expressive. Her hands, reaching out, or fumbling, also appear to convey profound intensity of feeling.
The stage at the Courtyard Theatre is a reasonable height – more than two feet, anyway – but that of Ace Hotel is raised only a few inches from the floor. It was unsurprising that Aurora wished to be higher – to see and be seen. I thought that this connected with the extent to which she sings with her eyes. She sang for a little while standing on a high stool, clearly feeling precarious. A fall from that height would not, as she predicted, have killed her – but she could easily have broken a bone or two. It wasn’t until almost the end of her set that the solution arrived in the form of two helpful ladies bearing a squat and solidly constructed box on which Aurora could stand.
Aurora’s precarious perch on the stool brought to mind a concern I felt whilst waiting for the music to begin. The stage seemed wrapped in a cat’s cradle of electrical spaghetti. As I remarked to a friend, in any other working environment it would have been judged an unacceptable health and safety hazard. As it transpired, the tripping hazards belonged to the support band – who, apart from their unruly cabling, were very good. Once they packed their equipment away, at the end of their set, the stage was a great deal less fraught with peril. Aurora’s stool wrapped about with cables is something I’d prefer not to imagine.
Since February, Aurora had worked on what appeared to be a great deal of new material – not least Running with the Wolves. As a result, the June set was a lot more up-tempo than the earlier concert. It became abundantly clear that Aurora can rock and emote at the same time. As the music moved faster, no trace of feeling was lost.
I took photographs, but not while Aurora sang. To focus on images, rather than the songs – as they were sung – would have been a terrible blasphemy against every goddess who loves music. Consequently, none of my pictures show her facial expressions as melody flowed from her lips. Perhaps that is good. Divorced from her music, Aurora’s singing face would surely have been stripped of much of its meaning. There is no substitute for being present in the moment. My pictures, at best, can do no more than give a general impression.
Aurora was backed by the same band as in February. I wish that I knew their names so that I could give individual credit to their musicianship. Since I don’t know who they are, I can give them only a blanket credit. All of them are excellent, and together they represent an awesome force. A piece of non-musical credit deserves to go the lady who played the smaller organ – her feather earrings were as fine a piece of jewellery as I’ve seen in a long time. I took a couple of pictures of her but, from where I was standing, couldn’t prevent a microphone stand from getting in the way. (Sigh.)
The basement of the Ace Hotel was packed. A friend said he’d seen a notice in the hotel lobby to the effect that the concert had sold out. I didn’t see the sign, but find it easy to believe. To judge from the thunderous applause, the rest of the throng appreciated the music as much as I did. As we departed into the London night, each of us – I believe – felt the beauty of running with the wolves in a far wilder place. That wilder place lay – and lies – in the strange fastness of Aurora’s voice and of her music. The wild forests of her native Norway sprouted in Shoreditch that evening. It was a time of magic, a time of wonder. When the tears flowed from my eyes during the encore, they were not only for all the injustice in the world (as I stated at the outset), but a reaction to the sublime encapsulated in Aurora’s voice.
Previously at the Courtyard Theatre, Shoreditch: February 24th 2015.