From Viking long ships making their arduous raiding missions across the sea, to modern day musicians flying to and from Sumburgh, Lord only knows the amount of chaos the conditions and weather of the North Sea have caused weary travellers. It is no different tonight in Aberdeen, as once again the mighty body of water in the North makes its presence known.
Sadly, Scottish folk superstars Lau announce – just hours before the gig’s opening – that they have become stranded in Shetland due to adverse weather conditions and can’t make their scheduled appearance. This was to be the final in a series of concerts entitled ‘Northern Arc’, bringing together folk musicians from Scotland and across the Northern Hemisphere in special one-off collaborative concerts. So tonight it is left to Norway’s Valkyrien Allstars to steer the ship on their own, playing a special extended solo set.
The Allstars take to the stage facing a full Music Hall, despite the earlier announcement, and open with a traditional Southern Norwegian folk tune. With Hardanger fiddles out in full force, the group begin a journey steeped heavily in Norwegian folklore. The songs’ introductions include mysterious translated tales of corpses turned into musical instruments, and young lassies lost deep in giant bowls of porridge.
The quartet plays mostly traditional tunes, as the depth and breadth of sound from all those extra strings of the Hardanger engulfs the Music Hall. But it’s not all trad. Throughout the set moments of jazz creep out through the drums, and the grandiose in-house pipe organ even gets an outing.
Perhaps most unusually alluring are Tuva Syvertsen’s vocals, best heard in the group’s original composition Kom Hjem (Come Home). They make sense in an unlikely kind of way, best likened to Alt-J’s more acoustic moments. The group have found an unusually comfortable middle ground between Norwegian folk, rhythm-heavy jazz and contemporary vocal arrangement.
Syvertsen charms her way through those in-between song links, delighting the audience with her pidgin English and describing herself as ‘funny in a boring kind of way’. However, mid-song the band sometimes get lost in heavy instrumental moments, which are oh-so-much-fun for musicians, but not the best way to keep an audience engaged.
It’s a real shame that Lau didn’t get to meet the Norwegians, as they’re almost counterparts or long lost cousins in their style and delivery. Perhaps they will in future, if more Northern Arc concerts are on the cards for 2016. Providing, that is, the North Sea abates.