Being a child prodigy is never easy. The third album can be a curse. AURORA signals a progression from art-folk-pop to synth-pop on The Gods We Can Touch. At Liberty Hall this week, they show they can pull this off with Cure for me well received. Can she leave Narnia, without losing her quirky charm and take more creative risks?
I primed myself with a Mary's EQ cheeseburger. Grass-fed beef, double American cheese, pickles, onion, ketchup, and mustard. As Mary's allows you to pimp your burger to your liking, I will get the ketchup on the side next time as a tad too much for my tastes. With such generous fillings, I had no room for the fries. Efficient service, good music, and pleasant seating outside on a balmy night. Sinking a beer or two before a gig at Liberty Hall or The Hordern Pavilion would be a fine thing. Note to self: arrive earlier next time.
The support band is Melbourne based trio Blusher. A self-described brand of 'hot girl pop' and 'angry sparkly pop chaos'. They are on their first ever tour to support their 2022 singles Softly Spoken and Dead End. Miranda, Lauren, and Jade delivered a confident set of girl-pop-dance music. Without any chaos. They had done their homework and the crowd rewarded them with a big cheer. Blusher recently signed with Atlantic/Warner Records. I am predicting we will be hearing more from them.
A sold out Liberty Hall is buzzing in anticipation for AURORA. The Norwegian band's big break was an Oasis cover for the 2015 John Lewis Christmas advert. AURORA are astute collaborators with film, TV, gaming, commercial sponsors and philanthropy. Aurora performed 'Into the Unknown" on the Frozen 2 soundtrack. Appearing at important global events such as The Nobel Peace Prize, the Academy Awards, and COP26. Supporters of human rights particularly LGBTIQ+, racial and indigenous rights, and environmental causes.
In twelve years, AURORA has amassed a diverse following, hence the diverse crowd at this all ages gig. Aurora Aksnes receives well-deserved praise for her control of her remarkable voice. She is an accomplished songwriter, musician, and producer. AURORA have released four albums (three if you consider two are EPs). Aksnes has achieved all this and is only 26 years old.
AURORA last toured Australia in 2019 as part of Groovin' in the Moo festival. I saw them at The Enmore Theatre with Tones & I (4 stars). The 2023 tour is in support of AURORA's fourth album The Gods We Can Touch.
AURORA entered the stage to an intro tape of The Forbidden Fruits of Eden and squeals and whoops of delight. They launched into Heathens from the new album. It was not until the tenth song in the set that the whole crowd got behind them. Runaway from their first album All My Demons Greeting Me as a Friend and rebooted recently by Tik Tok. People knew the words and sang along with conviction. The drums in Churchyard (from Infections of a different kind: Step 1) raised the tempo. The Seed (from A different kind of human: Step 2) followed with its save the planet message well received. AURORA was finally on a roll. Queendom (from Infections of a different kind: Step 1) got hands waving in the air. Running with the Wolves from the first album closed out the set.
A chant of 'one more song' and AURORA return to the stage for the expected Cure for me and Giving in to the Love as an encore. Finally, people are dancing then Aksnes wrapped in the Pride flag take leave of the stage for the final time.
Leave them wanting more, but why waste the first hour? Sure, pockets of fans were having the time of their lives. One group touchingly gave Aksnes an artwork they had created for her. Dotted through the crowd were fans with blissed out faces of undying devotion. The majority were politely clapping. I have been pondering why this gig did not fire for everyone. Don't get me wrong it wasn't a bad gig at all. Aksnes is incapable of singing badly, she worked hard, the band played well, the sound was good. The set and visuals were a little underwhelming. A bit on the cheap side of minimalism when compared with their high quality videos.
It is not easy to please little pop princesses and serve up dance floor bangers to older, more knowing fans. The Gods We Can Touch is a step forward and the tilt towards synth-pop should be a commercial success. Cure for me is the standout track on the album and of the night. The Aksnes on stage was still the cute little girl apologising for taking up space. She gets as sunburnt as a piglet and keeps losing things. Aksnes' patter to the audience doubled down on quirky and naive. This was more charming when she was younger. We all know she is a more than capable adult and the confidence of this album proves it. The audience response was encouraging more risk taking.