Nordic Music Central Viking Hero

Eivør (Faroe Islands) – Live at Gorilla, Manchester, 22 October, 2022

I’m sure that in the past I’ve jokingly referred to Eivør (Pálsdóttir)as Eivør the Engine after the animated steam engine with a will of its own and without any doubt she put in a shift tonight, along with her three man band, in a venue that gorillas would thrive in. It gets so hot when there’s a full house there that you could fry an egg on the floor. Every time I go there I stand by the door hoping it will open every so often and a breeze will creep in offering sweet relief and there is always a succession of patrons staggering through it, or being helped to do so, before they collapse.

Because NMC is mainly concerned with those entering or making their way in the business I’ve only reviewed the Faroese legend once before – and even then it was in a collaboration with Lydmor – and wasn’t that sure what to expect in a live performance. I wish now I’d attended one of her shows previously, being totally taken with her virtuosity, musical acumen, stage presence, her extensive mane of thick blonde hair (do they make those Faroese sweaters out if it?) and, above all her vocal ability.

She hit one of her signature high notes in the first 10 seconds of opener ‘Boxes’, and there was much, much more to come, notably in the songs ‘Helig’, ‘Skyscraper’ and ‘True Love’ in which she produced a stupendous note that lasted almost as long as Liz Truss was Prime Minister.

You know, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said an artist reminds me vocally of Kate Bush, but Eivør out-Kate’s Kate if you get my drift and not just in the larynx department; her emphatic mannerisms, the way she projects her personality into her songs, are memorable. As with all the very top artists she acts her material as much as she sings it.

And that material is wide-ranging to put it mildly. She sings tender ballads, occasionally acapella, even trilling like an opera singer while other, ethereal, works could be film scores. She can rock with the best of them too, and shreds her guitar like her life depends on it.

On occasion she grabs a shamanic drum to bang out menacingly the beat (notably on ‘Trøllabundin’, one of two encore songs) and it instantly transports you to the time of the Nordic Sagas, and the ruggedness of her homeland. It’s worth mentioning that she looks and dresses the part, too, somewhere between Xena and Floor Jansen.

Two of the songs, ‘This City’ and ‘Rain’, specifically relate to her upbringing in Syðrugøta, a small village of 400 souls on one of the far-flung islands and how having sought to escape it as a teenager she now misses it profoundly.

During ‘Rain’ she was joined by her sister Elinborg for some beautiful harmonies while during ‘This City’, a barnstorming rocker,she somehow conspired to sing it the wrong way around. Despite a face so red it could have illuminated the entire venue had the power been cut, what was even more impressive was the recovery, by both Eivør and the band; so much so that it got the loudest cheer of the night and deservedly so.

There was one unfortunate incident, and I feel obliged to relate this, when during the tender ‘Gullspunnin’ a loud argument broke out involving an aggressive security guard and a patron, the guard having previously undertaken another very loud conversation with a colleague earlier in the set, something about when to empty the garbage bins believe it or not, and which lasted the entire length of a song and which drowned it out for a large slug of the audience at the back. Eivør must have been able to hear both of them but did not react adversely, greatly to her credit.

I hope the Gorilla management will take that comment on board.

Fortunately it did not spoil what was a memorable evening; a visit from a Nordic superstar, a musician as technically impressive live as any the Nordic countries have thrown up over the years and one with that elusive ability to enchant her audience.

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