Eleanor Friedberger, Oslo, live music review: ‘Eclectic, cosy and unpretentious’

‘Solid outing’: Eleanor Friedberger performs at Oslo. Photograph: Casey Cooper-Fiske

Warm applause greets Eleanor Friedberger and her band as they shyly step out on to the stage at a packed Oslo.

They immediately launch into ‘My Jesus Phase’, a tense track which slowly builds in energy and perfectly represents the new direction on display in Friedberger’s latest record, Rebound.

Unfortunately, live, the track does little to energise her dedicated fanbase, many of an older age, who were clearly hoping for something a little more upbeat.

The smooth, caressing baseline of ‘The Letter’ flirts with the crowd a little more successfully, with its 80s pop stylings prompting some swaying.

Friedberger’s newer material fully wins over the crowd when the opening guitar jangles of ‘Everything’ fill the room – the “everything, everything” chorus sparking the night’s first singalong.

Just as the crowd is falling into the singer’s arms, she stops to speak of “mixed feelings” about her return to London, letting the crowd in on a few personal anecdotes from her time living in the city.

She jokes about her microphone stand, which had earlier caused her significant trouble when she tried to remove the mic for a little more stage freedom.

Whilst the chit-chat feels honest and authentic, it lasted too long for some audience members, with one person shouting “The mic stand says get on with it!”.

The heckler prompts Friedberger to dive into her back catalogue with ‘He Didn’t Mention His Mother’ from 2016’s New View.

‘Lou Reed-style’: Friedberger sings of city life and heartbreak. Photograph: Casey Cooper-Fiske

The evening’s highlight comes when the driving ‘Stare at the Sun’, which takes the room to CBGB’s in 1973, slowly decreases in tempo, its fast-paced drums and guitar peeling away to reveal the ultimate tale of false hope, ‘Inn of the Seventh Ray’.

The crowd hang on every word as Friedberger tells of her desire to reach this mystical location, dreaming of the journey, only to be brought down to earth by the revelation that whoever was promising her a visit simply “didn’t know the way”.

Friedberger’s set is certainly eclectic. For some numbers, she dons a leather jacket, Lou Reed-style, to tell of the gritty nature of city life, and in other places, she sings Fleetwood Mac-esque pop songs about heartbreak.

When playing her latest material, she manages to mix in 70s and 80s reference points without sounding like a nostalgic throwback.

The performance is cosy and unpretentious, with Friedberger doing her utmost to make an emotional connection with each and every member of the audience.

Some tracks cast a spell, such as ‘Make Me a Song’ with its catchy longing chorus of “I could love you more”, but others meander and break up the flow of the set.

The evening was a solid first outing for Friedberger and her new Welsh band, assembled with the help of Gruff Rhys, but it left the impression that her relaxed psychedelia is best enjoyed at home with a warm drink in hand than in a live setting with a cold beer.

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