Danish musician Agnes Obel’s atmospheric chamber pop held an audience spellbound at a special appearance Saturday night at St. Mark’s Cathedral.
Obel was originally scheduled to appear at St. Mark’s the previous Saturday, March 8, but was held up by visa difficulties. She smiled as she told the audience “Did I mention it’s so fantastic to be in Seattle?” adding that the city’s climate is similar to that of her native Denmark.
Obel accompanied herself on piano, muting the sound by laying a shawl over the strings. Her cool, clear voice was well suited for the delicate, haunting melodies Obel played on the piano, with a violinist and cello player providing a melancholy undercurrent.
The concert featured songs from Obel’s most recent album, “Aventine,” released last year, and hailed by the “Guardian” (who praised the “exquisite arrangements” and music that “evoke[s] the desolation of being awake at 3 a.m.”). The instrumentals were especially impressive; not being tethered to a vocal enabled the music to soar, as if reaching for the cathedral heights. One such number steadily built in intensity and volume until the musicians abruptly stopped playing, leaving the sound hanging in the air; an exceptionally dramatic moment.
The cathedral’s gorgeous acoustics heightened the pristine sound. And the audience’s silence was such that it seemed as if they were holding their collective breath. No coughs, no murmurings, no rustling paper; it was the kind of reverent quiet only heard at performances of “The Ring” cycle.
Local singer/songwriter Bryan John Appleby opened the show with a short, emotive set that included originals and a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence.”