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Agnes Obel Proves to Be Worth the Wait

August 15th, 2014

Agnes Obel – The Bowery Ballroom – August 14, 2014

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Unusual for the popular music vernacular, Danish singer-songwriter Agnes Obel floats through a landscape of pop divas and indie bands. She trained in classical piano at a very young age and was ensconced in a house filled with music, including a mother who was a talented pianist and father with a habit of collecting instruments. Her current residence in Berlin houses not one, but two pianos—a Grotrian-Steinweg and a Berdux. As if the pair weren’t enough, she’s also got a vintage house organ for good measure. Obel released her sophomore album, Aventine, last fall following the success of her debut Philharmonics. Although she was slated to play The Bowery Ballroom this past March, visa delays prevented her from arriving Stateside, but not to fear as she returned for a small three-city tour, which concluded last night at a sold-out Bowery Ballroom.

Clad in an iridescent and sheer black shirt, Obel took her seat behind a black Steinway as she opened with “Louretta,” an instrumental piece worthy of a period drama musical score. A river of trembling keys introduced “Fuel to Fire” before the Dane produced Kate Bush–like choral cooing. The pianist apologized to those March ticket holders and promised a special evening. Cellist Anne Müller later confessed that she was the one who hadn’t gotten her visa to travel to the United States. All was forgiven as the trio, completed with violinist Mika Posen (Timber Timbre), effortlessly weaved through both albums.

From the fluttery keys on the song about a bad temper, “Beast,” to a waltz of title track “Philharmonics,” the women hovered amongst the delicately played pieces to the joy of fans. Obel saved the best for last, offering crowd-favorite “Riverside,” as well as the new love song “Words Are Dead.” Although “The Curse” closed out the set, the three returned to encore with a pair: the vocally requested “Pass Them By” and a reimagined cover of folk blues singer Karen Dalton’s “Katie Cruel.” —Sharlene Chiu