The best music sweeps listeners up into a magical dimension full of wonder and art while simultaneously connecting the mind and spirit in emotional harmony. On March 30, Agnes Obel transformed Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music into an otherworldly space of eerie beauty with a set list full of tracks old and new, at times even combining classic compositions with songs so fresh they are yet to be titled.
One of the evening’s many highlights came early in the performance as Obel dove into her “Citizen of Glass” single “It’s Happening Again,” which the Danish songstress described as representing the “ups and downs of the mind.” The song, the title for which is in and of itself Lynchian, would provide the perfect soundtrack to a night out at The Roadhouse, the spellbinding biker bar at the heart of “Twin Peaks.” Obel’s haunting vocals permeated the delicate piano composition with vivid imagery and heartbreaking elegance.
The concert hall at Old Town School of Folk Music has arguably the best sound in the entire city. As such, fans were utterly silent at the top of the set, that is until Obel encouraged everyone to make some noise. “This is not a classical concert,” she said with a smile, mentioning that Chicago is, after all, one of the birthplaces of Jazz. From that point on, hoots and hollers could be heard following impressive moments – of which there were many – including the conclusion of “Trojan Horses,” as gnarling strings and intricate harpsichord-esque phrases combined, engulfing the venue in sound.
The perfection of the siren-like four-part harmonies of Obel and her all-female band kept the audience in awe throughout the evening. Equally impressive was the cello work of Charlotte Danhier and Kristina Koropecki, both of whom looped various riffs live creating the illusion that an entire symphony was on stage during songs like “Run Cried the Crawling” and “On Powdered Ground.”
Softer moments, including a solo performance of “Smoke and Mirrors” showcased Obel’s powerful vulnerability, and “The Curse” allowed her to share the full range of her expressive vocals. The complicated relationship between love and guilt was examined perfectly with “Stone,” while the syncopated rhythm of “Stretch Your Eyes” related the accentuated beating of a broken heart.
Los Angeles musician Ethan Gruska (left) opened up the concert with a set full of new songs with vivid storylines that showcased his versatile vocals. “I’m kind of obsessed with this room,” he said after admiring the venue’s outstanding acoustics, a sentiment which was met with unanimous agreement from the sold-out crowd.
Obel will wrap up her North American tour on April 2 with a performance at the Stoughton Opera House in Wisconsin before heading to Europe in May. For more information about tickets or to pick-up any of Obel’s albums head over to AgnesObel.com.