Aldous Harding – Luxor, Cologne; November 19th, 2019
After seeing Aldous Harding in Cologne I was looking for an adequate way to describe her and came across the words “delightfully strange” in an Irish article about her. That fits with my impression of the person as well as her performance. The music she and her band played was beautiful if not always easy to access and watching her was entirely fascinating. I’m not sure I’d call this concert “fun”, when “intense” is the much better description, but I have absolutely no regrets going there. It was a good evening.
It was another one of these weird coincidences that lead me to her concert. Two years ago I had accidentally heard the last two songs of her set at Frikirkjan in Reykjavik during Iceland Airwaves and enjoyed them. Never checked into her music afterwards and forget all about her until someone mentioned her on Twitter in a completely unrelated thread. That made me check on her tour dates and when I saw she was playing in Cologne on a day where I didn’t have anything else planned I spontaneously purchased a ticket. Luckily I checked on the venue a few days before the show and realized the concert had been moved from Artheater to Luxor and the starting time moved from 7 pm to 8 pm. Took a train after work, arrived around 6, was the first and left for 30 minutes and still made it front row center. It was sold out, but people arrived slowly.
I had been wondering who the support act might be and talked to the woman next to me about it. Finally it turned 8 and he appeared. A dreadlocked guy in his 20ies with a keyboard, a reel to reel tape recorder (or something similar) and a guitar. When he started playing I did not know what to make of it at first. It could go either way. Soon though, I realized it was dreadful. He made sounds with his Instruments and his voice. I could not find any structure there nor distinguish when one song was over and the next one started. The sounds may have been avant-garde or interesting to some, but to me they did not appeal at all. When he was done, I only clapped because it was finally over. His Name was Yves Jarvis, I will know to avoid him in the future.
We got a 30 minute break, the stage setup was changed and finally the lights went down again and Aldous Harding’s band walked out – drums, bass, guitar and keyboards. They started playing and she came out last, standing behind the microphone at the center. I think she played the first song before she spoke to us, moving with the music, looking highly concentrated. “My focus keeps me shy,” she let us know, “but I am open.” Open to the vibes in the room and our reactions.
I’m not sure how to categorize her music, but I liked it. Not all of it was easy to access, musically and I cannot speak about the lyrics, as I wasn’t paying that much attention. For sure they were not easy to remember and sing-along to Pop tunes. 😉 The band was good, all of them knew what they were doing and the music came together perfectly. With the second or third song, Aldous picked up a guitar as well and sat down. She did not look at the crowd much, but when she did it ws intense. During ‘Zoo Eyes’ she looked straight at me – an intense stare, daring me to look away. I smiled and she smile back at me. It was kinda weird – in a really good way.
We got a good variety of music, with Aldous changing from guitar to keyboard for one or two songs and later on, during the encores, the guitar player joining the keyboarder. No two songs sounded alike and this singer, this band, demanded attention. Whenever peple chatted too much as she was about to start a song, she looked at us, asking “Yes?” and people shut up immediately. She sure had the crowd under her spell. At one point, a few songs into the show she said “It’s supposed to be fun!” and a few people laughed.
She did not talk all that much otherwise, just making short introductions to the songs from time to time, like calling ‘Holiday’ as “beachy song”.The music was more than enough though, I got really drawn into it and could not judge the passage of time any more. Everything felt much longer than it actually was. I enjoyed the variety in the music and I loved the harmony singing on some of the songs.
After nine songs they left the stage, but came back soon for an encore. ‘Imagining my Man’ was introduced as “an old song”, i.e. from her last album, not the current one. The last one, a new song called ‘Old Peel’ was the most interesting though. She used a coffee mug and a drumstick for the rhythm and it worked surprisingly well. Overall it was a somewhat weird, but totally cool concert. I had a great time and even though it was only about 70 minutes long, it felt enough. I might want to try this again.
Imagining My Man