Expectation and promise filled QPAC’s concert hall at the start of Norwegian born, Stockholm-based Ane Brun’s 90-minute set. Because firstly, the stage was dramatically cloaked in darkness and romantically illuminated by scattered candles and secondly, Brun’s powerful voice is remarkably rich. And it was because of her distinctive, gorgeous vocals and skillful guitar playing that her one-woman show was rewarding initially, but sadly, around the 25-minute mark began to pall.
Was the absence of Brun’s seven-piece support band the reason there were several false starts, her rhythmical licks, one strum short? There were hesitancies in the reach for the next chord and a nervy faff-and-fuss about sound equipment geared in any case for rather limited digitally altered vocals.
Perhaps it was a classic example of ‘you can take the girl out of the band but not the band out of the girl’ scenario. And, the guitar changes took too long hobbling the show’s momentum. Did each instrument have to be trudged across the stage each time instead of being in a swift reach-and-grab position behind her?
There were covers, which marked the stronger performances in her playlist for instance, ‘Make You Feel My Love’ which Brun recently sang in an event honouring Nobel laureate Bob Dylan at Stockholm’s ‘Royal Dramatic Theatre.’ These standards, including ‘Arcade Fire – Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)’ rendered Skandi style, were rendered persuasively.
Beyonce’s ‘Halo’ was a welcome moment of visual surprise and musical promise, as a film of cellist Linnea Olsson playing a plucked cello riff was projected onto a screen, which Brun sang along to. But there were missed opportunities. An overly extended repetitive sequence, ‘I can see your halo’ in concert with Olsson begged for variable harmonies but was mostly sung in unison.
The standing ovation at the end of this self-indulgent, emotionally flat-lining concert came as a surprise given the dribbles of lack-lustre applause along the way and the absence of enthusiasm for the encores of which there were too many. The unconvincing ‘Signing Off’ came last and revealed underwhelming guitar.
Whether that ‘ovation’ was an Aussie welcome for a European singer, prompted by her followers or a sympathy vote who knows but it felt unjustified given the concert’s lack of zip and drive, polish and authority. Despite Brun’s evident talent and appealingly vibrant lighting displays, this journey through a bland landscape of songs all too similar in mood and in over-visited tonal centres fell flat.
Songs and Rarities
Venue: QPAC Concert Hall
Date: 9 January 2017
Bookings: www.qpac.com.au | 136 246
Gillian is a music and arts journalist and the author of Elvis and Me: How a world-weary musician and a broken racehorse rescued each other, Finch Publishing, 1 August, 2015.