Town Hall, Birmingham
We had front row balcony seats to experience what can only be described as modern chamber music. Agnes was backed by three extremely talented female players. On percussion was Belgian, Catherine de Biasio (a relative of Melanie?) who also played sax and clarinet and sang harmonies/backing vocals. There were two cellists, both of whom played other instruments and were live looping and singing. They were Charlotte Danhier (who played Mellotron and ukelele and is also Belgian) and Kristina Koropecki (who also played autoharp and percussion and is Canadian).
The set started with Red Virgin Soil, an instrumental propelled by plucked cello strings and with Catherine playing clarinet. The multi-instrumental all-female band comprised two cellists and a percussionist as well as Agnes. Agnes was stood at the front playing electronic keyboards (mostly with a natural piano sound), but she had also brought along her own living room upright piano which was at the back of the stage. This was mainly used for a couple of beautiful instrumentals and songs from Philharmonics, such as the title track and one of the encores, Riverside.
The set was mostly drawn from Citizen of Glass, and demonstrated the strength of that album, which is a step change from Philharmonics and Aventine. I think they played about eight tracks from Citizen, probably four from Aventine and three from Philharmonics.
In an interview, Agnes confessed that when recording Citizen of Glass, which is a very multi-layered recording, she paid no heed to how it could be performed live. Clearly an enormous amount of work has gone into creating the live arrangements, with the use of live loops to build up those layers and the music came across with a conviction and a depth that both surprised and delighted me. On ‘Familiar’ she used a vocal treatment to get a deeper, masculine tone, which provided a contrast to the all female harmonies on the other songs.
None of this is music to get up and dance to, but it does lift up your soul. Nothing was raw or dissonant, but neither was it sweet or saccharine. Somehow Agnes and her multi-instrumental, multi-talented band played music that struck a perfect chord throughout the evening.
A mixture of young and old. Perhaps more oldies up in the comfy seats.
It made me think..
This is modern music that stands on its own two feet.