Embracing your oddities: AURORA’s liberating performance

Photo: DeShaun Craddock

Photo: DeShaun Craddock

Aurora Aksnes, known as AURORA, had a quiet breakout into the indie eletropop scene. Even though her first single was released in December 2012, it was not until February 2015 that she reached critical and commercial acclaim for the song “Runaway” from her first EP. Radio stations across the UK picked up the track and the then the 17-year-old soon started making appearances at music festivals like Way Out West and Green Man.

The Norwegian-born singer enthralls and bewitches with her powerful yet sweet voice. Her writing is honest, dark, but still hopeful. AURORA invites the listener into her personal experiences and shows how to rise after falling, to shed youth’s innocence, and how to dance your way through life even when it seems to be crumbling apart.

I discovered AURORA some months following the success of “Runaway”. I spent two painfully long months waiting for the release of her debut album, All My Demons Greeting Me as a Friend, followed by two horribly uncomfortable hours waiting in the rain outside of The Opera House on November 8 for her first performance in Toronto. What most excited me about seeing one of my newly favourite singers was the chance to finally witness and experience her devotion to her art. AURORA fuels her performances with erratic, expressive dancing. She moves with the bass line, the guitar shreds, and the electronic backtrack.

Her wild and free dancing is not just a quirky trait of hers. After singing the first few songs of her set, AURORA talked about how important it is to embrace everything within ourselves, and to allow the things that make us different define us. She made the assumption that if we connected with her music we had to be a little strange, just like her. This statement was met with enthusiastic cheering and whistling. The singer then went into a rendition of “I Went Too Far”, which she prefaced by saying that she admires those who celebrate their inner weirdo and stand up to those who try to knock them down.

Her words were touching, changing the way I experienced the rest of the show. I was lucky enough to be standing right in front of the stage, within arms reach of this eccentric, mousy girl whose voice packed a most jarring punch. The high notes AURORA managed to reach, seemingly without effort, left all in attendance spellbound. Despite the heavy instrumentals background, her voice always rose above it. She sang from the heart and lived up to her mantra, continuing to dance along to the beat of each song.

The set consisted of all her singles; the songs which most describe her restlessness and depict the pain of living despite the pressures of those who try to constrain her. AURORA opened with “Lucky”, a song in which she admits the harsh realities of life that make it tough. Following that was “Murder Song”, “Runaway”, “Under The Water”, and “Running With The Wolves”, songs which further depict themes of overcoming the oppressions in our lives and living unapologetically for ourselves.

The show closed with “Conqueror”, and AURORA expresses the utter joy she felt when she stopped waiting for someone else to rescue her and decided to become her own hero. It seemed then that her opening words had come full circle. Her lyrics, her dancing and her encouraging words culminated in an elevation of the spirit that permeated the entire venue. The crowd danced in ecstasy, and I felt as if I finally understood what it means to listen to and trust the odd nuances of myself. Any artist that manages to free a crowd’s spirit to that extent is an important one. AURORA did not just put on a show; she used art to demonstrate the liberation that comes with embracing your inner weirdo.