Susanne Sundfor - London Hoxton Bar & Kitchen - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Susanne Sundfor - London Hoxton Bar & Kitchen

by Priscilla Eyles Rating: Release Date:

Susanne Sundfor is one of those artists who, once you discover, you can't believe more people haven't heard of her. It is my constant pleasure to introduce her extraordinary music to people. So it's great that the gig tonight, even if it is the small space of the Hoxton Square Bar, is sold out in advance.

She is clearly getting some recognition outside of her native Norway, where she is acclaimed and revered, and stories of people being moved to tears by her performances are common. But then again, seeing Sundfor at this stage, playing small intimate venues, is rather nice, even if one hopes she will get more recognition, enough to enable her to bring a full band with her. For economy, she plays with only two other musicians tonight who have the challenging task of recreating Sundfor's epic sound, which includes full-blown orchestrations mixed with electronics. But I am confident it can be done, having previously watched fellow Norwegian Hanne Huckelberg use only two other musicians to effectively recreate the complex sounds found in her music.

First up is Norwegian singer-songwriter Morten Mykklebust, who charms the audience with his heartfelt acoustic music, skilful guitar-playing and pleasingly soft voice, and who reminds me of a more lovelorn Fionn Regan and a little bit of Elliott Smith. He also constantly makes the audience laugh with his self-deprecating humour ("Susanne used to play before me, that tells you a lot about my career"). I shall certainly be looking out for him in the future.

And then comes the magical moment when Susanne Sundfor steps onto the stage and launches quickly into 'Diamonds', the acapella intro demonstrating how that uniquely beautiful soaring, shimmering voice of hers (I could add more adjectives but you get the picture - basically one of the best vocalists I've ever heard) really is as good as it is on record, hitting those many challenging high notes effortlessly. If there was any doubt that Sundfor could adequately recreate the album live, then those doubts are vanquished. Her enthusiastic supporting musicians (and I very much enjoyed their hip-swaying dancing, vigorous head-nodding and muso expressions) solidly backed up Sundfor's keyboards, knob-twiddling and occasional cymbal bashing, with additional electronics and vocals which sounded very close to the sounds on the album. Even the recorded string parts sounded live.

Sundfor herself comes across as a rather modest, shy person. Inbetween songs there's not much talk, she doesn't even introduce her musicians so I sadly can't name-check them here. But in performance, she's another person: Magnetic, in total control, and in thrall to the music, making wide theatrical gestures with her arms (like Florence + the Machine), and swaying and nodding enthusiastically to the beat.

Highlights are too many to mention, but some include mesmeric renditions of the intensely beautiful latest single 'The Silicone Veil', with its awesome, percussion-heavy, electronic outro, the majestic 'White Foxes', with its spine-tingling keyboard motif interplaying with the amazing vocal melody, and the ghostly lullaby 'The Brothel', which really showcased Sundfor's emotive capabilities (the moment when she sings, "God has left us anyway" is utterly poignant). The only fault was that at 10 songs the set was rather too short, I could've easily watched her for another 10 songs.

Ultimately you really can't help but be blown away by her incredible talent, her supreme gift for melody, and her ability to create a world and atmosphere which is captivating, dark, romantic and modern. Listening to her makes you get excited all over again about the capabilities of music to move you to your very core. And if that sounds like hyperbole, just go and see or listen to her for yourself.

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