Seconds into her industry showcase at The Box in lower Manhattan Wednesday night, Norwegian teen songstress Aurora grimaced then halted her first song, “Runaway.” No errant guitar note – nor pink stage light, as the audience learned before song No. 2 – would distract the petite 19-year-old blonde as she wove intricate tales of escape, belonging, and sanctuary with her at turns delicate and demonstrative voice backed by soft guitar and drums. Her frantic, oft times jerky hand and arm flourishes buffered her song’s theatrics, ping-ponging between the gestures of a coked-up orchestra conductor, a street dice player with an OCD pre-throw ritual, and an electric chair victim. OK, maybe that last example is hyperbole.
Depending on your view, these movements either cemented Aurora’s child-like exuberance and authenticity or diverted attention from the power of her precocious songs. I found myself most enthralled with her seven- or eight-song performance while standing at the bar drinking a $12 whiskey and ginger (yikes!) with no clear sight line of the stage. Staring at the back of someone’s head is never preferable in a concert setting, but in this case I enjoyed focusing on the wonder of Aurora’s cries, coos, and yodels rather than her busy hand motions.
Aurora’s awkward, or perhaps endearing, side played out in between songs as well. At one point toward her set’s end, she expressed a stoner’s astonishment at a tambourine on stage. She forgot what it was doing there, she told the audience. Her drummer chimed in that they brought it from Norway. She spun around in her leather jumper and shredded skirt while shaking the previously forgotten instrument on the next song, “Running with the Wolves.”
She closed the night with her new single “Conqueror” and an encore cover of David Bowie’s “Life on Mars,” in honor of David Bowie Day in NYC. Judging by the tastemaker crowd’s reaction afterward, expect to hear (and see) a lot more from Aurora in 2016.
Aurora’s debut album All My Demons Greeting Me As a Friend is scheduled for release in March. Photo courtesy of thefourohfive.com