There are moments in life, particularly involving music, when you have the opportunity to experience a gig or an event that can transport you to a place that feels very much otherworldly.
Some might describe this as ‘liminal space’ and I could cite experiences such as the incredible One Love at Lancashire Cricket ground gig providing just that. The gig that I am speaking of on this occasion, however, is the highly energetic set performed by the quite simply spellbinding AURORA.
At a time when economic pressure can be such a squeeze on the ability to craft a fully immersive show, it was astounding to see the effortless drama, design, and detail that powered this show forward. The night began with an incredible performance from pianist Lauren Jean, who, at only fifteen years of age, has the talent and vocal dexterity of someone twice her age. I felt thoroughly warmed by her fantastic ability to engage with the crowd and, with such a bright and fierce manner in her performance, I can only hope that she continues to confidently find her own distinctive niche.
She was in great company with the following act, the ethereal Iris Caltwait, continuing the spectacle through her strong performance accompanied by one of the most highly skilled drummers I have ever witnessed (who also went onto play AURORA’s set with equivalent precision and ease).
The visual and aurally stunning worlds created in AURORA’s discography explore the depths of her fear, sadness, and anxieties about the world. Yet, in her show, the fondest memories she can muster blossom and appear in bright, pulsating light, and colour across her moon-like stage set. There is an undeniable honesty and sweet nature about her from the start. Both refreshing and expansive, it allows an audience into her performance without any hint of pretentious intent. The rare integrity shown completely blurs the lines between live music and performance art as she dances out a transcendent, genre blend to a heavy drum beat.
A technical error towards the mid point of the set rendered the speakers useless for thirty seconds, but this seemed to encourage the band to play even more mightily than before. It truly was a moment of comedic brilliance that they were perhaps unaware of, but it surely did nothing to dampen the spirits of the fiercely engaged crowds before the stage.
Later on, a moment that took AURORA herself by surprise occurred during ‘Running With Wolves’ as the audience began to chat the lyrics back to her with a renewed enthusiasm as each chorus rose in her typically anthemic style. A first, AURORA recalled, as she explained: “Manchester, you are the first city to sing these lyrics back to me, thank you.” It was a truly touching moment.
In the final part of the show we were treated to a further surprise, receiving a very acoustic version of the track ‘Infections Of A Different Kind’. It had all the warmth of the recorded track with the distinctive wavering of her delicate but, nonetheless, well honed vocals. Perhaps it was the song or her ability to draw up attention through her anecdotal manner but here there was a tangible connection that is, so often, sorely missed across much of the gig culture in Manchester right now. She has an ease with her crowd (or warriors, as she says) but equally her vulnerability really resonates through the room. Of course it is likely that her idealism seeks to anger some, but her bravery in the language she uses is utterly compelling and, most importantly, straightforward. So much of music can be caught up in complexities that simply aren’t needed and her set proves that detail and profound thought can be found in the most soulful and honest of places.
This incredibly impactful gig showed what could be done when sonic quality meets stylistically driven ambition and an intense, unique personality. It filled my ears with stunning sound and, undoubtedly, my eyes too.