There were only two performers officially on Monday night’s Bowery Ballroom docket: Scandinavian vocalist Ane Brun and British singer-songwriter Gemma Ray. But at the time of performance another name was added, that of Brun’s band member Elin Ruth Sigvardsson. Her sweet voice was reminiscent of Régine Chassagne, and the music was simple with just an acoustic guitar accompanying her. In her performance, there was a folk sensibility, but toward the end it moved away from that, feeling a bit unnatural and exaggerated as her voice bounced everywhere in a matter of minutes.
Gemma Ray came next, joined by drummer Andrew Zammit, who simultaneously played drums and maracas during Ray’s cover of Mudhoney’s “Touch Me I’m Sick.” There was a toughness in her playing and singing, which was emphasized when she took out a knife, rested it on her guitar and, halfway through “They All Wanted A Slice,” started playing her guitar with said knife. It was unsettling yet very cool.
After a very long set-change lull, Ane Brun came on with a band that included two pianos, a cello, a drum and a guitar. She started with “These Days,” the opening cut from this year’s It All Starts With One LP. There was playfulness in her performance, something that became visible when the band played “One,” a song with a syncopated, tango-like rhythm that made everyone including Brun shimmy and dance. Brun focused on songs from her most recent release, which won her a Spellemann award (the Norwegian equivalent to the Grammys) for best female artist, including “Do You Remember.” But she also threw in “Sleeping By The Fyris River,” a track from her 2003 debut album, Spending Time With Morgan. There have been comparisons between Brun and Florence Welch of Florence And The Machine, and this night showed why: Both singers use strong but angelic voices to carry themselves with effortless elegance and to surround themselves in a surreal aura.