Oregon Music News: Oregon’s all-genre music magazine since 2009

02/18/2019

Aurora at the Wonder Ballroom on 2/15/19 / Photos/review

 By MATT CARTER // Norwegian pop singer sells out Wonder and rekindles her love for playing Portland.

 Photos By: MAHIR HRUSTIC //

Norwegian singer Aurora Aksnes' rise to prominence in the Electropop genre has been meteoric to say the least. At 22, Aurora already has several international tours under her belt, but had not played in Portland for over two years. Last Friday, February 15, while playing at the Wonder Ballroom, she was quick to acknowledge a messy day-of Portland cancellation in 2016.

“Portland took something from me,” she recounted – that being her appendix after surgery was needed on the last day of her tour. Canceling her performance at Crystal Ballroom, however, did make for an amusing story on her return. “I really enjoyed the morphine, I can see how people got addicted to it in the old days,” she joked. And even if her last memories were less than amicable of the city, the sold-out crowd at Wonder Ballroom was reason to make memories anew.

Two songs in, Aurora gave a perplexed look at the vast buffer between the Wonder's 21+ section and the all-ages area. “It's like Moses is here!” she exclaimed to hearty laughter from the audience. It’s an appropriate response given that Norway is a majority Lutheran country. Alongside a strong connection to nature, Aurora’s vague questions toward religion is a notable theme in her songwriting. Coincidentally, she then performed “Churchyard,” a tale of unrequited love from her latest EP Infections Of A Different Kind – Step 1.

Aurora's stage presence makes it easy to see why she draws comparisons to everyone from Kate Bush to Björk. Her energy is strikingly uninhibited, with writhing and serpentine dance moves. She embodies something earthy and primal in song that is an untouchable quality. “I want to say, we are like we have fleas in our feet tonight,” she told the crowd, describing their urge to keep moving to her music. Aurora's subject matter has always been highly relatable to her fan base. To hear the bulk of the audience sing the chorus of “Warrior” was to experience a personal bridge between herself and her following.

Likewise, “Murder Song (5, 4, 3, 2, 1)” began with a solemn tone of haunting keys, only to crescendo with Aurora's register at towering heights during the bridge. It concluded with Aurora in a massive sing-along of the fading lines, “5, 4, 3, 2, 1.” While the denser tracks seemed to draw the room in with impassioned participation, her high energy singles seemed to dominate the set list, of which she has plenty. “Animal” saw Aksnes go from fierce finger pointing to serene coos and fairy-like croons with eyes closed. Part pop-star, part folk-heroine, Aurora's precociousness was likely the last thing on anyone’s mind. If it weren't for her spurts of silly intercultural banter, there would be no reminder that Aksnes is just enjoying her time as a young woman in her twenties.

Some of the more humorous topics discussed that night included how Aksnes sees smiling faces in the onstage smoke machine, like shapes in a cloudburst. She also detailed her own experience of eating dead flies, “Just to see how it tastes.” Then there was: “We may have to eat bugs really soon,” in reference to the near-future’s resource scarcity.

By the night’s end it was clear how easily Portland was charmed and even humbled by the ability of Aksnes to connect with fans far from home. We basked in the opportunity to see someone with potential to burn, as well as the creative control to make honest, meaningful pop songs. That may become more rare in America as time goes on, but as long as we take the time to learn from foreigners, things should never go stagnant.

 

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