Washington, D.C.’s iconic 9:30 club celebrated its Halloween night with an evening of rock. The evening’s opening act, Dan Croll, treated the audience to a set of old and new material. His set was clean and comfortable, with Croll switching between keyboard and acoustic guitar. Coupled with synths, the occasional pointed harmony and an electric guitar riff, the audience was invited to take part in a performance that was sweet enough for Halloween. He ended his set with his hit “Home” and invited the audience to grab a beer with him after the show.
The true treat of the night, however, was Aurora, a 20-year-old Norwegian singer-songwriter. She opened her set with a muted and stunning version of “Lucky,” but it was soon forgotten as her next song “Winter Bird” began with flashing lights and overwhelming intensity.
After the booming bass and flashing lights of “Under Stars,” it was down to just her and her guitarist for “Murder Song (5, 4, 3, 2, 1).” The empty stage and red lights created a moment that left viewers no other choice but to follow every lyric and hand gesture.
Throughout the show, seamless transitions created a perfectly orchestrated set, while Aurora’s charm and mesmerizing dancing hypnotized the audience. She was more like a hypnotist than a puppet master, though, as she seemed to fall under her own charms. The scene created a vulnerability that gave her fans the impression that for this one night, it was okay to get lost in the magic of it all.
No matter how rehearsed and queued the set was, it was between songs where Aurora gave the audience a chance to understand her, no interpretation needed. She spoke about everything from the pizza she had for lunch to taking time to point out and compliment almost every single costume in the audience.
It seemed as though the more comfortable the audience became, the more she blossomed into the quirky, passionate musician she’s known for being. At one point, after singling out yet another costume for compliments, she showed the audience her on-point cat imitation. This genuine interest beyond the edge of the stage and into lives of her audience helped her audience feel safe in being themselves in the crowd. This mutual understanding fueled her power and presence — a give and take lucrative for both ends of the relationship.
Towards the end of the set, she performed “I Went Too Far,” but not before she opened herself up by explaining that in order for her to perform the song, she needed to audience to help her create strength, which they did 10-fold. By the end of the song, both Aurora and the audience were jumping and screaming.
This energy continued with the final song of the night, “Conqueror.” The upbeat song ended with her ditching the microphone and her shoes to dance and unleash an outward energy, inviting the audience to do the same.
While seemingly contradictory, the juxtaposition of her concise musical timing coupled with her beaming personality gave Aurora the space she needed to be herself. In turn, she created a space for the crowd to get lost in; a space safe enough to dance, cry, sing and scream. She acknowledged her fans, answering every “I love you” that was shouted, even giving one super-fan a signed drumhead with a personal letter attached. Aurora offered more than vivid lyrics and textured melodies, she presented a chance to be a warrior.
Aurora will be performing in New York at Webster Hall this Thursday, Nov. 3.
Email Hannah Shulman at [email protected]