LIVE REVIEW: Agnes Obel, Hare & Hounds (Birmingham), 06.11.2011

Glaswegian Martin John Henry arrives on stage at nearly 8.30. The crowd in Kings Heath’s Hare & Hounds are wanton. The tickets stated 7pm and the majority of the audience were waiting downstairs by 6. With over two hours worth of drinking and waiting time already well behind them, the initial response to Henry is frosty. However, with a subtle humour and mild manner, the singer/songwriter wins over the audience soon enough and though he doesn’t have them fully captivated throughout his short-ish set, he does at least gain their attention for long enough to make his mark.

Luckily Danish composer, pianist and chanteuse Agnes Obel makes her way to the stage fairly swiftly after Henry’s set. Having arrived in Birmingham just a few hours before her set, Obel is thankful to be away from the manic attention of the Danish Music Awards at which she won no less than five awards. With a refreshing relaxed approach, she expresses her love for the venue – at which she performed last April – before heading straight in to a set than encompassed material from her debut album “Philarmonics” alongside newer compositions.

To say that Obel was spell-binding would be an injustice. While she oozes a fusion of humour, self deprecation and immense talent, Obel’s nonchalant approach ensures she is approachable at all times. While her compositions may be her magic, she is unwilling to use tricks of the trade to ensure that they reap their rewards. Instead she offers a simple, no nonsense set that allows an audience to see all sides of her personality – from controlled frustration with a drunken heckler and her borrowed keyboard through to the genuine friendship she has with her band mates – Obel’s approach to performance reflects honestly her simple approach to composition, recording and artistry.

Everything about Obel contradicts her current position as a trend setter and award winning global chart phenomenon, yet it is in her sheer effortlessness that Obel wins over hearts. With no stage tricks to hide behind, Obel has the audience eating out of the palm of her hands enjoy from the moment she steps on stage till she closes with a moving Elliot Smith cover.

While singles “Riverside” and “Just So” may have provided the only sing along moments of her set, Obel proved consummately why she so justly deserves all the awards that are being thrust her way. There are no words to do justice to the innate beauty of either her material or her performance, so instead of trying, I will simply advise you to get along and see her next time she is in your town.

Reviewer: Jeremy Williams
Rating: 5/5

Photograph by Jeremy Williams

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