An Agnes Obel gig is a lesson in black magic. Each element of her performance is carefully selected for its mystical properties, added in at exactly the right quantity and at precisely the right time. The result is a deeply enchanting night of music that will continue to work its sorcery through the minds of those in attendance long after they have left the room.
Agnes walks onto a stage lit in scarlet, with her three fellow musicians dressed head to toe in ceremonial white. They dive into ‘Citizens of Glass’, the title track from her latest album. Followed by the cascading piano vignette of ‘Dorian’ and onto ‘It’s Happening Again’ a winding journey into the dark and perilous regions of the mind and how it spirals. The shadier side of the human condition at large is a recurring theme in the Danish musician’s music, delving into the zones of paranoia, secrecy and the primordial chaos within one’s own mind. We watch her transpose her brain into music and fall witness to a hauntingly beautiful thing.
‘Golden Green’ is a spectacle of percussive brilliance, all four multi-instrumentalists are catatonic in their playing of xylophone, drums, keys and tambourine. The crowd are deep within their spell now as they march on with ‘Trojan Horse’. Eerie piano and tremulous cello notes produce a foreboding sound overlaid with piercing strings and layered vocals. Distorted images of the performance are projected live behind the band, completing the occult ambience.
Nothing is left to chance in her arrangements, Obel became fascinated with music production at a young age and has performed, arranged and recorded all three of her albums. Lyrics come secondary in her musical soundscape with strings and piano taking the lead role in the narration. She has the propensity to create rich and nuanced soundscapes without much need for lyrics to evoke what she wishes to convey. Each composition is a complete work of art, creating within in it its own world and atmosphere and in the Olympia tonight we are inside that bell jar with her.
After a stunning rendition of ‘Riverside’ the four musicians join hands and take their bows. A standing ovation ensues and we exit the Olympia, an audience left reeling in the liminal space between her mind and ours.