Agnes Obel//Konzerthaus//Dortmund, Germany//21 January 2012

I love road trips and I love music concerts (more than most things in life). And a road trip in the name of a concert – well that is a rather great combination. However to be fair a road trip which is made up of an 8 hour journey through Germany…in January…for a rather calm artist – well it’s not the obvious pick. Did I mention the weather forecast was rain, rain and wait f or it rain.

This particular road trip however was kind enough to us as to abide the rules of a road trip: mad fun. Including jumping out of hotel building window at midnight after our door key for one hotel room broke in the lock and the grumpy sleepy German receptionist refused to get out of his bed because we were 15 minutes later than we said we would.

But let’s stick to the music. Agnes.

Agnes Obel is not indie. Even less so is she rock. But she is magical. And second to Bon Iver (which I expect you all to know) she is the prime candidate to possess some hypnotizing quality in her songs that calm me into sleep during my insomnia-infected nights.

As for the venue, the setting was quite breath-taking. A massive German concert hall all in crisp white, full to the brim. And I must really applaud the venue for its sound quality. But as the Danish star appears in the company of Anne Muller from Berlin it all goes black. And the entire audience’s attention gets locked in on the two circles of light amongst the misty darkness – Agnes at the beautiful grand piano and Anne with her mighty cello.

The first few notes start up on the piano and I think from then to the end the audience held their breath. Of course there was a break for applauses between songs and the loud noise and the action of clapping your hands brought you back to reality just for a short while. Just to check you were still breathing. But between that you felt like you were in some far away place, just drawn into the music. Not a person moved or talked.

The music itself is frighteningly simplistic. I was surprised the amount of times Agnes plays with just one hand. Or how simple some of the composition is. But how intensely effective. The piece may be simple but they are also executed with perfection.  The harmonies cause a vibration in your bones and cold air on your skin. Agnes’ voice is of an extremely high quality.

Agnes shares a few words between songs, she is calm, gentle-voiced and rather shy but she speaks some German and gets a few laughs out of the crowd. She seems genuinely thankful and honoured to be invited to such a venue. She mentions that there are some difficulties in playing slow music, but that playing in venues like this is its advantage. And I can imagine that the view from the stage must have been quite something.

When the set ends most of the crowd stands up and we applaud loudly. The duo come back on for another two songs. And then leave. The standing ovation continues and the clapping and shouting continues for a good 10-15 minutes (this is northern Germany – I was impressed!) and the duo come shyly back on. Sit together on the piano stool. And shyly and quite overwhelmed Agnes admit they have played every song they know but will hopefully come back soon with some more.

To this we clap them out. And the spell breaks.

And two things are clear:

  1. The 8 hour drive was well worth it
  2. The whole concert experience was much greater than the sum of its notes and lyrics

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