Wardruna & Eivør @ Ace Hotel Theatre Los Angeles, CA: 14 September, 2018

Wardruna @ Ace Hotel Sept 2018

The Ace Hotel Theatre in Los Angeles is a Gothic-style theater that was built in 1927 and has been recently restored and re-opened as a concert venue. The 1600-seat palace, with its thousands of tiny mirrors in its vaulted ceilings and its three stories, is one of the oldest and most historical operational venues of Los Angeles. Perfect location for a night of artists who sing about ancient history and tradition!

Upon arrival, it was apparent to me that many of the night’s attendees took the history aspect into account when choosing their wardrobe for the night. Hordes of Viking-themed garb – furs, boots, armour, braided hairdos, beaded beards, and the list goes on. Many were also dressed in the usual metalhead attire, though there were many Enslaved and other Norwegian artist shirts floating around. People did their homework!

Eivør is a Faroese multi-instrumental artist and singer with a very diverse vocal range. I’ll be honest – I’ve been hearing about Eivør‘s talent through the grapevine for a while, but before this show, I had never heard her music. I was really excited when I saw that she’d be opening for Wardruna and I just didn’t want to spoil it for myself. Usually I listen to artists for years before I get to see them live. This was a rare opportunity for the opposite and I wanted to take full advantage of it. I really didn’t know what to expect, but I knew it would be amazing.

Walking into the proscenium, I immediately spotted a lady with silvery-rose locks and multiple instruments set up on stage and I knew that was her. From the beginning it was obvious to me she was bursting with excitement. Promptly at 9.30 pm she began her set and within a few seconds I had shivers down my spine. She kicked off the night simply, with just a drum and her voice. So simple yet so powerful. She was holding her drum like a shield and I could picture her as a shieldmaiden, singing to the gods of Valhalla. The entire sold-out venue cheered when the first song of the night ended. She was still jumping from excitement. Blowing kisses to the audience and expressing her thanks after every song, with her hands over her heart.

For the second song, she put away her drum and brought out the electric guitar. She’d be using the guitar for the next few songs, adjusting the tuning in between each one. She introduced the next song and said it was about sad love. Although I didn’t understand the Faroese lyrics, that was exactly the vibe I got from it. 

The third song was more upbeat with almost a retro rock sound with occult atmospheric sounds. This was certainly unique, unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. She introduced the fourth song and explained it was inspired by her homeland of the Faroe Islands and its gloomy climate. Of course, the song was about rain and to my surprise, it was in English. It wasn’t long before I figured out the song title (‘Rain’), a word that was constantly repeated with her powerful, almost a capella, voice over her soft guitar.

The next song was also in English. It was a sad song about despair, with electric guitar and electronic sound in the chorus. This was the heaviest song of the night and also the one where she hit the highest notes with her singing.

For the sixth, and final song of the night by her, she was back on her drum. The song sounded like a tribal chant to the Norse gods. She was making expanding drum sounds with her own singing, as well as wind and marching sounds. I was amazed at the one little woman creating all these sounds!

As her performance ended, she expressed her genuine gratitude to the audience, which seemed to be as blown away as she was by them. If I’m not mistaking, I believe this was her Southern California debut. It is quite rare for a debut to have a crowd so large and a reaction so grand, as it is also uncommon to see an artist almost blowing up with excitement and gratitude. In this case, the first impression was mutual. And with that, she took a bow and made way for the night’s headliners to take the stage.

Promptly at 10.40pm, the audience was greeted by two men with large horns. The entire place went silent, almost in a startle. The first song began as the six musicians of WARDRUNA took the stage. There were no words spoken, no verbal introduction. This song had a theatrical sound, with the band’s frontman, Kvitrafn, also known by his birth name of Einar Selvik, and Lindy Fay Hella, the band’s female vocalist, performing vocals together. The stage had a gold background for this song and changed every song on the set, which was a really nice touch and not something I’ve witnessed very often. The song ended with a silent, still stunned audience and there was a pause before the entire place began cheering.

The background changed to green to introduce the second song. Birds began to chirp as Kvitrafn began playing a drum. I noticed that other members also switched instruments.

The third song started with the theater pitch black and strong drums, which encouraged a cheering crowd. The background then turned blood red with the shadows of the members. This song reminded me of the music when Viking rituals are performed, with black metal style vocals. Then out of nowhere, screams and blasting lights, in true Norwegian black metal fashion. The background for the fourth song was grey and gloomy, like a black and white film. Drums and a loud, cryptic horn launched the song, vocals were traditional with black metal influences, so powerful that even the floor was shaking.

A slow switch to a fiery bronze background indicated the beginning of the next song.  Kvitrafn was now on a stringed instrument and both vocalists performed a duet. The crowd roared over the powerful drums. The silvery lavender background that came next, with gentle a capella howls from Hella, took me to a cold mysterious night with wolves, lit only by a full, silver moon. Kvitrafn joined her later on, before the lights switched off to pitch black with a spotlight on him. The song ended with howling and a spotlight on her.

The bright orange background that followed gave me the impression that the next song would be lively. Both singers began together with loud chants, neither with any instruments. A partial whitening of the background and soft spoken words from Kvitrafn kicked off the next one, until screams turned the energy around. There is so much possession over his words that the song ended with everyone’s arms raised and a somber grey background.

Such an emotional piece can only be followed with something tame. Kvitrafn played a gentle tune on a horn. This was the shortest track and the background was a pale gold.

Peaceful ocean sounds acted as an intermission to what I felt would be the second part of the show. After so much heart and soul that was expressed earlier, this was the way to take everything to the next part. All black with a ghostly light was the setting for the darkest song, which ended in a fire. Then, the final portion of the night began.

Pillars of lights with a reddish dark background debuted the next stage of the show. The pillars were three dimensional and were moving along to the music. This was my first time ever seen this type of lighting, it was amazing! What began in a slow tempo moved into what became the most upbeat song. Kvitrafn symbolized a snake with hands, which earned him the largest reaction from crowd that night.

Rain drops and a pale lavender background symbolized that the end was near. Once it changed to blue, strong black metal growls and loud chants took over the stage. The second to last and catchiest song of the night received a dark blue then red and gold background. Kvitrafn was using a Viking horn. Then for the first time the whole night, some words from Kvitrafn! He thanked the crowd and gave a beautiful speech about the sentimental value of music and songs in the Norse culture. The entire theater stood as he very emotionally held his hands over his heart.

Kvitrafn then introduced the final song of the night, which he said would be about death and letting go. This one received a red and white background, symbolic to the song’s meaning. Definitely, the most touching song of the night for me. Sad farewell horns, followed by pitch black and silence. A few last spoken words from Kvitrafn echoed at the end before taking a bow and the entire sold-out Ace Theatre standing up and applauding in gratitude.

SETLISTS:

Eivør
1. Salt
2. Verd Mín
3. Í Tokuni
4. Rain
5. True Love
6. Trøllabundin

Wardruna
1. Tyr
2. Wunjo
3. Bjarkan
4. Heimta Thurs
5. Runaljod
6. Raido
7. Isa
8. Jara
9. Algir – Stien klarnar
10. Dagr
11. Rotlaust tre fell
12. Fehu
13. NaudiR
14. Odal

Encore:
1. Helvegen