AURORA Brings Shimmering Vibes (and Candy) to Turner Hall : Gallery and Review

Strolling into Turner Hall last night, I was slightly overwhelmed by the loud chatter and excitement on the faces of a diverse crowd lined up on the stairs entering Turner Hall. Once everyone is ushered into the dark room, the pale pink tree-printed backdrop and chrome accents on the stage catch my eye. It is young Norwegian singer-songwriter Aurora Aksnes’ (famously known as simply, AURORA)  first show in Milwaukee, and the anticipation in the room is building.

And boy, she did not disappoint.

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all photos via author, Lily Sanders

The 20 year old platinum blonde was set to take the stage after a strong performance by fellow overseas-singer Dan Croll, whose sound resembled a slight psychedelic-tinged alternative rock mix of Glass Animals and COIN. Before beginning their last song, Dan invited the crowd to check out his music “Any way possible, doesn’t even have to be legal.I don’t mind if you don’t pay for it.”, followed by a chorus of ‘thank yous’ from the crowd.

Following Croll’s exit, the audience seemed to buzz with growing expectation. Finally, it was time for Aurora.

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I am standing next to a twenty-something Milwaukee native who I’ve learned has been following Aurora for the weekend, first to Chicago, then Minneapolis, and now ultimately back in his hometown. His face lights up as she and her band take the stage, and she catches his eye and grins widely. It’s a heartwarming image I won’t soon forget.

The petite silhouette of the night’s namesake gracefully steps to the center of the stage, and her crystalline voice fills the room as she begins Lucky, the fourth track from her debut album ‘All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend’. Unlike many concerts I’ve been to, there is little screaming but many eyes shining and lips moving as they follow the powerful lyrics that range from love and sorrow to joy and homesickness.

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There is an instant connection with the crowd. Her clear, frosty voice is almost indescribable and just as hard to compare to anything I’ve ever heard before. Such electric emotion and touching lyrics gives me chills, and I know I’m not the only one. As I scan the crowd during ‘Eyes of a Child’, I see not a single person- adolescent of adult- on their phones. It seems as if the whole room is frozen in time, captivated by the young woman painting pictures and telling stories with her beautiful voice.

Her presence is bewitching. Every song brings grand, swaying arm gestures and body language dripping with passion. She almost reminds one of more fairy than human, with platinum hair glowing like a halo in the flashing lights and movements filled with such grace it’s magical.

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Near the end of the show, Aurora pauses to converse with the sea of people when a young girl shouts that today is her dad’s birthday. With a giggle, the excited singer asks for his name,  leads the room in a loud rendition of Happy Birthday to Mr. Larry, and then abruptly races to the side of the stage. She returns with handfuls of candy, which are thrown into the crowd with thunderous cheers.

img_5724Thirteen breathtaking songs into the night, the performance concludes with a powerful cover of David Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars’. The tribute echoes throughout the room, pulling on heart strings and leaving us all with a few more lasting minutes of raw beauty.

Breathless fans of all ages look on as Aurora and her band bow gratefully and wave with smiles as they leave the stage. There is no doubt that this first visit to Milwaukee will not be the last, and they’ll be welcomed back with open arms upon an anxiously-awaited return.

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