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Live show review – Siv Jakobsen (Norway) – Gullivers Manchester, 24 May

There is a huge dichotomy between the content of Siv Jakobsen’s albums and her live shows but this is the first time I realised just how big that gap is.

Siv eats angst for breakfast. Her albums are riddled with it and especially her most recent one, ‘Gardening’, which formed the bulk of this twice rearranged 15-song show. But her live performance is so delightfully presented that the torment, even though it is right there in the lyrics, just floats away while she’s a better comedian than some of the stand-up professionals that I’ve seen at the Frog & Bucket 50 yards up the road.

Next time she’s here she should double up. A new career beckons.

The stage was kitted out like the Garden of Eden, complete with tweeting birds (the feathered kind, not Elon Musk), the “extreme gardening” as she put it symbolic of the most recent album and the work she’s had to do, both literally within her own garden in Norway and metaphorically to put out of her mind at least one individual she’d rather forget; the one who is the subject of the album. You do get the impression that she is unlucky in love.

Something else that became evident this time around that I’d missed on previous occasions, probably because I’d been much further away from the stage, is the quality of her voice and delivery.

Because her lyrics can be a little on the depressing side, and sometimes disturbing too, especially where violence is involved (against her, ‘Romain’s Place’ is a good example), you do tend to overlook her ability to change the vocalisation subtly, mid sentence, to emphasise or de-emphasise as required. She does live what she is singing and you can actually see that in her facial expressions as you might with an actor.  

In ‘Blue’ she redefined ‘ethereal’ with a succession of notes that were still hanging in the air after she’d finished and then held another one in ‘Blanket’ (a solo effort while the band took a break – “just stare at them to make them uncomfortable” she quipped) that was exquisite.

While the audience was still recovering from that, she channeled Joni Mitchell so well on ‘Crazy’ that the Canadian could have been stood right there next to her.

There is quite a lot of self-harmonising on Siv’s albums and to get anywhere near mimicking it live requires having a talented musician and vocalist alongside you. So kudos to Hedda Aronssen who was the second voice in many songs as well as deftly playing piano and synthesiser. Also to drummer Oli Hardaker, a dab hand at the delicate percussion that her work requires, especially around the cymbals, and who has the ability to make a military beat sound like a lullaby.

Together they transposed what can be quite complex recorded orchestral compositions into something appropriate to the show.

The set opened with ‘Fear the Fear’, a fascinating song which in itself suggests the sort of over thinking about which she chastises herself. There is a wonderful line in it, “I fear the ness in happiness”.

It touches on her tendency to hang out in her own head and stay there, worrying about something or other in a constant, stressful loop and the nagging sensation that she wouldn’t be able to create well if she was well, happy, content with herself, and her life.

Well she seemed happy enough tonight and there was no lack of creativity, in her performance or her little asides. Perhaps Siv is finally coming to terms with who she is, just playing catch up with what her appreciative audience already knows.

Siv Jakobsen finishes her UK tour in Bristol (25 May – The Louisiana); Birmingham (26 May, Sunflower Lounge); and Leeds (28 May, Brudenell Social Club).

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