If you came to London’s trendy Hoxton tonight expecting sing-a-long choruses, uninhibited dancing and lager fueled crowd surfing then you clearly did not read the script for this evenings Anna von Hausswolff gig. This was instead a jaw dropping evening of epic vocals, clever drum work, effortless guitars and the most amazing organ sound you’ll hear outside of an actual cathedral.
Swedish singer-songwriter-pianist Anna von Hausswolff was on the penultimate leg of her “Ceremony” promotion tour, before returning to her more familiar Scandinavian surroundings. Her previous 22 dates, including notable festival appearances, had taken her to the slightly warmer climates of Lyon, Brussels and Rotterdam at the latter end of summer. However, with the mind-numbing boredom of tour busses and hotel rooms clear in the mind there was not a single hint of lethargy in tonight’s performance, as the band played with the same passion and conviction they would have done on the first date in Lille. Tonight’s venue was small and intimate, completely the opposite to how you would imagine tracks from “Ceremony” being played out. But the sound was completely off the scale, bouncing off of the four walls, unable to escape, and an hour after the gig had finished my body was still vibrating from the heavy base and organ. A quite invigorating experience!
Miss Von Hausswolff’s first spoken words of the evening were to thank the audience for their attendance; softly spoken, she was barely audible. This was in stark contrast to the booming brilliance of her vocal performance. At times she almost seemed a little embarrassed by the good turn-out and there was a shyness to her audience interaction. Her embarrassment was however misplaced as Hoxton locals, Londoners and Swedish ex-patriots were witnessing something quite beautiful and moreish. This incredible gothic sound was invigorating, powerful and contained an essence of grandeur rarely seen in today’s music. Cleverly there was also a somber feeling to some of the proceedings. The almost magical interchange between dark, booming songs such as “Deathbed” played along perfectly with the delicate strings and vocals of “Liturgy of Light”, turning the performance into more of an opera than a series of individual tracks. At one point Miss Von Hausswolff asked for ‘more volume’. Her timing was perfect as the result led to the highlight of the evening “Mountains Crave”. It took the roof off and was applauded manically at its conclusion.
A performance of this quality can only ever happen if the supporting musicians compliment the artist. While beards seemed to be an absolute necessity (with the obvious exception of Miss Von Hausswolff) it should be said that there was a complete ‘togetherness’ that cannot be reproduced even after hours, days or months of practice in lesser bands. It was as good an example of the perfect set you will ever see.
If there was to be one criticism it would relate to the graphics used to accompany the band’s music. While the in-focus and then out of focus shots of the moon were cleverly put together I’m still not sure why we were treated to a film of mountain sheep grazing. Maybe on a grander scale it would have looked a little less surreal but projected onto what appeared to be a local schools white board it looked a little out of place in comparison to the musical content.
After seeing Anna Calvi last week I was certain that she was the outstanding female artist of the moment. I may be forced to reconsider that statement on the strength of tonight.