Review: AURORA at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London

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Mid-way through her October UK tour, I had the pleasure of witnessing Norwegian Pop princess AURORA do her thing at London’s own O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Along with support acts Rachèl Louise and XamVolo, the stage was set for an evening of groovy hipster vibes. And comprised of old and young in equal measure, the crowd cut across as diverse a demographic as I’ve ever seen at a pop/rock gig.

The show began with some effervescent if rather forgettable singer-songwriter malarkey from Dutch-American pianist and singer Rachèl Louise and her accompanying guitarist. Her set was short, one in which she delivered swathes more personality in her well-timed interlude ramblings than in the music she performed. Her pleasant but generic brand of indie-pop came and went with little notice from the audience as they rudely chatted throughout.

Second up was XamVolo, the aforementioned Liverpool-based Londoner, who notched the evening’s music up a cerebral rung or three. A Neo-Soul artist with influences overflowing from Jazz, Rock, R&B, Funk, and Grime (to name a few), he and his band conjured a magnificent array of sounds; from screaming guitar solos to bowel-quaking sub-basslines, no stone was left unturned in the ensuing sonic conquest.

After a brief switch-over, up stepped the headlining act. Like many Scandinavians before her (Bjork, Sigur Rós, etc.), AURORA cashes heavily in on the ethereal, almost supernatural look that has long characterised the Nordic cultures in the consciousness of good old Blighty. In her aesthetic, she incorporates visual and sonic elements that bring to mind Vikings, Norse mythology and a distinct fairytale vibe. Complemented by her ponderous inter-song wit and vacant yet perceptive stare, her manner of other-worldliness couldn’t help but drag you in further to her strange and beautiful tunes, set as they were to a visual backdrop of ever-changing forestry. Performing songs from her hugely successful debut effort My Demons Greet Me as a Friend, she had the crowd drunkly swaying and belting along to her every word. In the more contemplative, soul-searching numbers where she stripped back her relatively large band to just herself and guitarist Odd Martin Skålnes, many – myself included – were frozen to the spot; gripped and moved by the emotive power of the music. The occasional loud and obnoxious ignoramus aside, the entire room – capacity 2,500 – fell silent for the excoriating on-stage exorcism of her most personal demons.

It was an evening of many delights, and one which left me thoroughly satisfied with having made the long trek to and from Southampton. And I’d do it again in a heartbeat at the prospect of once more seeing an artist of such immense power, at the very top of her game.

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A curmudgeonly Music student who likes to spend his days watching an obscene number of films whilst growing increasingly grumpy with the noise-mongers around him. He has on occasion also been sighted out and about performing with his band Nine Ace Deck, for whom he sings and writes songs. And when not doing either of the above, he takes great pleasure in composing music for the short films of the Wessex Films Society. Make sure to like his Facebook page (above right) to keep up with all the latest ramblings...

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