“I will be back and I will be lonely on your mountains!” promises Norwegian singer-songwriter, Aurora, at her first ever Glasgow gig and trip to Scotland.
I’ve always thought of Aurora as otherworldly or, at least, ‘Half the World Away’. And, following her show at The Art School on Monday night, I’m almost certain that she’s an alien. I approve. Invade.
Bathed in purple light, the crowd waits for abduction. Aurora glides on stage in a white, doily inspired dress, doe-eyed and far from this world. Demanding a halo, the glow turns orange, surrounds her and shivers at her touch. Her presence cues a strange, sonic, binaural beat that booms. It shakes the room and renders our brains subconscious. The air oscillates, charged. Breathing feels electric. A rush of snare drums strips the room of atmosphere. The high tides of vibration subside. Suddenly we’re in a vacuum.
Notes of crystal race from her gut, collide with her lips and atomise. Free-floating and twinkling above our heads, the glitter reforms whichever way it wishes. Tones melt and solidify, merge and separate, clink and chime, until full-formed and sparkling in front of our eyes. When the light is right, images of her childhood home in Norway, deeply knotted in the lattice of glass, peer out, wide-eyed and curious.
Her voice tears a hole in the fabric of space-time, loosens the shackles of gravity, and pulls the universe taut – stillness.
I check but it’s gone. My breath is trapped inside a bell-jar, within a tall tower, upon a stormy mountain … or, at least, that’s where I imagine Aurora takes all those breaths away to.
For the most part, the crowd is silent. We sway like blades of grass beneath her feet – just there. Quietly, we watch her perform a collection of songs from her debut album, ‘All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend’, and a few older singles like ‘Under Stars’ and ‘Nature Boy’. We all know that to sing along would be to dilute her spell.
Everything changes when she pauses her set to talk to the crowd, though. Suddenly, everyone is vocal and interactive, laughing with her as her estranged sense of social norms rears its beautiful head. It’s here that Aurora points out, “you’re all very good at knowing when to be quiet and when to be ‘loudy’” … her English not entirely fluent yet.
At one point, she actually pauses the show to tie her shoelaces, undone by too much interpretive dance. This clip captures that moment and is a great example of her delightful nature. Her mispronunciation of lace as ‘lice’ gets everyone laughing, too.
Following this, Aurora gives us a preview of her new song, Animal Soul, which she says will be on her next album. It is beautiful. Just before getting into the song, though, Aurora comically forgets the lyrics but gracefully recovers. To protect her music, the clip ends before she starts singing, but there’s a sneak preview of the melody.
After what I can only describe as a two-hour meditation, and an ethereal encore of ‘Through The Eyes of A Child’, Aurora and her wonderful band leave the stage. Watching her take the time to collect gifts and artwork from fans as she exits, highlights to me just how fresh to the scene and innately humble she is. It’s refreshing.
I leave the venue feeling oddly zen, but incredibly warm. So, my friend and I wait in the cool autumn breeze to catch a quick breath of fresh air before heading hom. That’s when we notice a few fans congregating by a side-door. Listening, it sounds like hopes are high of, at least, catching a glimpse of Aurora. With nowhere else to be, we decide to join the group.
An hour and a half passes and the plummeting temperature is starting to feel a little less comforting. Her roadies have come and gone; her tour bus is packed; her band mates are leaving. Surely she’s still in there. If not, surely someone would kindly tell us to go home for some heat.
Just as our hopes are at their highest, the door that we’re eagerly huddling around slams shut.
Exchanging looks of exhaustion and laughing at our hypothermic situation, my friend and I think of leaving. I’m a little disappointed but in agreement that it’s getting late and we should go. However, we do decide to stay one more minute longer … just in case.
Now, I’m glad we did.
Maybe it’s the lack of zany purple lighting, or the fact she arrives unaccompanied by her orchestra of humming alien space-crafts, but neither of us notice a tiny, bundled-up Aurora Aksnes standing timidly under a lone streetlamp. In fact, someone else from the group of fans has to point her out. I look over my shoulder and, suddenly, there she is, just a few feet away. I can only assume that she came from an unknown side-side door, but most probably she was beamed in.
In disbelief, we walk over to meet her. She notices that I’m shaking with the cold and takes my hands to heat them up. I am so struck by her friendliness. She very carefully scribes her signature on our tickets, poses with us for a few pictures, and then sticks around for a five-minute chat. There is no rush whatsoever.
I always imagined meeting a celebrity would be nerve-wracking, but Aurora makes us feel like we’ve known her all our lives. She’s so down to Earth and happy to talk with us, but I notice there’s a strong preservation of that aura of oddness. She feels present yet distant, untouchable even though she’s holding my hands. I think she’s a little stuck in her own head and, as I can personally relate to that, I assume it’s happily so. I get the feeling she’s secretly very shy and more at peace with being alone, regardless of her fantastic repartee.
In a moment of awkward silence, as this group of strangers tries to think of something to say to this other, more important, stranger, Aurora decides to be frank.
“I have to tell you all something inappropriate. We have to shower in the … eh … the venues because we can’t on our tour bus. So, they were all telling me ‘Aurora, there are people outside waiting for you!’ and was like” – comically flailing her arms about, she actions pulling a jumper over her head and hoisting her skirt up – “and now, my hair is still wet … you know, I didn’t have time, and … I’m not wearing any underwear. I couldn’t find it!”
Her awkwardness and honesty is charming. We all laugh with her, dumbfounded by this incredible mix of innocence and peculiarity. It’s weird being made to feel like we’re her main priority and not the other way around. The fact she rushed out of a shower to meet us is not only a funny anecdote, but it makes us feel valued as fans. And, that’s something I think a lot of other fan-bases don’t have the luxury of.
As time is getting on and our hands are going numb, Aurora goes to take her leave – mostly for our frozen sakes. However, caught up in a conversation with one last eager fan, handing her a gift-bag, I think she might not notice us leaving. So, purely out of politeness, I call back to her my goodbyes.
Much to my surprise, she hears me and makes a point of acknowledging it. Up on her toes, with her arm so far reaching that she could be trying to steal a star for all I know, she calls back to me. Her grin is so huge at the sound of my goodbye that it’s hard not to feel like I’ve just made a friend. There’s this sense that she’s the kind of artist, person even, who hopes to see everyone she meets in life again and for a little bit longer next time.
Utterly awe-inspired, my first reaction is to, of course, social everything. Just to prove this all did actually happen, here’s me and my friend with the lovely, gentle, and a little bit odd Aurora Aksnes.
There’s no definite date in place for her new album release, but she did inform us that it’s in the works. And, in her facebook-live Q&A the next day, she told fans that there are fifteen new songs on the track list, so far. Soon would be fantastic, but if I can wait outside for nearly 2 hours in the blustering cold to meet Aurora, I’m sure I can handle the few months until her next album.