Published Feb 18, 2014The pride of Norway, singer-songwriter Ane Brun, made her first stop in Vancouver as she tours in support of a career retrospective called Songs – 2003 to 2013 and a collection of covers and out-takes expectedly entitled Rarities. But first, Swedish "fantasy cello-pop" artist Linnea Olsson took the stage solo. Olsson's dramatic pop vocal hooks soared over her cello, aided only by tastefully employed delay and looping pedal. She performed tracks mostly taken from her debut album, Ah!, which was released in Scandinavia a couple years ago but just came out in North America in January of this year. Having sold out all the copies of her album that she brought with her, Olsson apologized for having no merch to sell, but humorously offered to sign the crowd's bodies instead.
In a similar fashion, Ane Brun first appeared solo, with only her calmly plucked acoustic guitar underpinning her sugary yet emotionally complex voice as she delivered "Do You Remember" and "My Lover Will Go" with simmering gravity. This being a solo acoustic tour, planned in celebration of her first decade as an independent artist, Brun's deep catalogue of well-orchestrated material was thoroughly mined and pared down to the bare essentials, what she referred to as taking big songs down to a small place.
Primarily playing an acoustic guitar and what looked like a baritone ukulele, save a few tracks on the keyboard, Brun's sound was sweetly yet hauntingly minimal, even when accompanied by Olsson. Brun and Olsson have performed together since 2006, so their rapport was instantly recognizable and they delivered wonderful harmonies in their fluid interplay. There were a couple missteps (Brun had to take a second run at the chorus for "To Let Myself Go" and, playing "One" on the keyboard, she flubbed the bridge, flailed her arms stiffly, then got back on the horse after a laugh), but her loving, generous personality smoothed them over.
Despite her rather theatrical presence, Brun came off as honestly sweet and thoughtful, with a cute pixie cut softening the smoldering look in her eye as she emoted her soulful songs. She delivered a Wayne Coyne volume of banter, discussing everything from the issue of climate change that made her write "One" to the American Cancer Society using her reflective "Don't Leave" for a Super Bowl XLVIII ad, but her genuine gratitude came across more than anything else. She said the surprisingly large and attentive crowd that came out on that rainy Monday night had filled her heart, as she thanked the sound guy by name, the venue and everyone else she could see.
Despite over an hour and 40 minutes of near continual use, Brun's voice stayed immaculate throughout. As promised, she picked tracks from across her catalog, including a haunting rendition of the opera piece "Laid in Earth" by Henry Purcell and a deep cover of her favorite dance track, "1 Thing" by Amerie, as well as the stirring "Daring To Love" song she wrote for a soundtrack. Kicking off her encore, Brun's solo cover of "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" by Arcade Fire, which she originally made for the Voice Project, received the biggest response, as the crowd rowdily stomp-clapped their approval. Olsson rejoined her to help bring the sombre "Words" to life, and play the instrumental for their iconic "Halo" while Brun just sang, pleading to the heavens with her outstretched arms. Finishing with "Undertow," a song inspired by the power of the ocean, their encore was icing on the cake.