Agnes Obel took us on a magical movie ride of dreams at Northside


Agnes Obel was a changer for Northside, bringing up not only a completely different music genre to the line-up, but also finally a band ruled only by girl power.

by Ella Navarro, feature photo by Magnus Hyltoft

Northside left us speechless, yet with so much in our hands still to talk about, because we feel it’s worth spreading good music. Berlin-based, Danish singer-songwriter Agnes Obel played a memorable concert on Sunday featuring songs from her newest album ‘Citizen of Glass’. The title of the album is inspired by the German legal term ‘Gläserner Bürger’, which translates to ‘glass citizen’ and refers to the level of privacy we have in the digital world we live in today.

Life without music would be a mistake
As soon as I learned that Agnes Obel was playing at Northside I couldn’t wait to see her live. Yes, I am a huge fan, and after that mystical concert, I believe twice more. Her music is present in my daily life, and it’s that kind of music I would never get bored of. Music that inspires me; to write, for example. It drives you far away from your problems, it’s so beautifully made it makes you think, ‘Wow, music really makes my life much better’. And I am thankful to the creators and admire their qualities. It gives me the chills.

Obel’s concert was definitely one of my highest moments of the festival. I needed this music to start the third day of an intense weekend. To just stand and stare while I embraced every note and the Danish wind hit my face, blew my hair. I was in a trance and so were some of my fellow crowd members, who I often saw closing their eyes to feel it deeper, to get lost in this bewitching music. And so did I.

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Obel was joined on stage by her all-female band (photo: Giang Pham)

An international girl band
Obel’s band is pure international girl power. A changer to the other music we saw at the festival in terms of genre, and with pure feminine spice. Introduced by Obel herself, Charlotte from Belgium was on the cello and ukulele, Louise from London on the percussion, and on the violin Christina, from Canada. All also contributing with vocals.

The members looked classy in golden tones with a matching silver make-up, which certainly accentuated Obel’s captivating blue eyes. Wearing a khaki jacket and a velvet black suit, she’s more petite in person than I had imagined. When she addressed the audience she did it in a calm voice, with a slight shyness every time she thanked them and spoke. But words are not needed when her music already speaks for itself.

Just like the movies
Obel’s music is definitely worthy of movie soundtracks. It has that drama that you imagine featuring in a ‘running to the airport to find the love of your life’ movie scene. Her songs hold a suspense that keeps you moving forward. It’s like you are holding your breath and then: boom! you get to the end of the scene. And not in vain. ‘Riverside’, one of her most well-known songs, was featured in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, and ‘September Song’ from the album ‘Aventine’ is the main theme for the hit HBO drama series Big Little Lies. The series is characterised by a great soundtrack, and Obel is of course a part of it.

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The band looked classy on stage in gold and silver (photo: Giang Pham)

The connection between the musicians on Sunday was powerful. The stage heated up with the percussion getting higher, hitting our emotions with the violin. My knees weakened when Obel played a piano solo in ‘Falling, Catching’, from her first album ‘Philharmonics’, and ‘Stone’ was accompanied by a wonderful performance on the ukulele by Charlotte. “I must be cruel to be kind…” still resonates in my mind.

‘Citizen of Glass’ was a whole new experiment for Obel, in which she arranged different string parts, layering 250 tracks on top of each other, processing her voice to sound low and high. In ‘Familiar’, for example, you can hear a deep male voice, but in fact it is her playing with the sounds of her own voice. Another skin thick song is ‘It’s Happening Again’. It feels to me like an angelical song, yet is sad, and reminds me a bit of indie band Devics’ style. I think it’s difficult to describe or to classify Obel in one genre; it’s a mix of indie with classical music, and maybe some pop, I would say. Alternative, definitely AMAZING alternative.

Suddenly, the day had gotten windy and the music had transported us to another dimension of pleasure. A big crowd had gathered to see her on Sunday, everyone quietly enjoying her hypnotising tunes. The euphoric claps after every song and at the close of the concert proved it, the audience clapping loudly for an encore. We hadn’t had enough.

Listen to Agnes Obel here and read about more of our highlights from Sunday at Northside here.

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