Bess Atwell at Oslo
On a cold December’s evening, it would be difficult to find anything more warming than the soothing vocals of Bess Atwell. The indie-folk artist, who released her sophomore album in September, closes her 2021 UK tour on the stage of Hackney’s Oslo. Playing a string of tracks from Already, Always, the singer created an atmosphere that was mellow and mesmerising in equal measure.
If the audience were to listen to the album, it would give a pretty clear indication of what to expect at the live show. It’s honest, acoustic-led, consistently mid-tempo and tranquil. If the audience were to close their eyes, they could easily mistake the vocals for the studio recording itself. What surpasses expectation in person, however, is the unmistakable clarity in Atwell’s voice – every fleck and intonation – a trait that is somewhat rare these days.
The striking purity of vocal tone allows for more focus on the introspective, almost confessional lyrics embedded within. Cherry Baby paints a backdrop that feels escapist on the surface, but the tracks that follow do not shy away from deeper themes like mental health, crumbling relationships and loneliness. For example, Time Comes in Roses partly addresses a mother-daughter dynamic, featuring the lyric “I’m tired of being like my mother”. It echoes lightly around the room, perfectly suited to a smaller venue like Oslo.
Performance-wise, the restrained pace often translates to a feeling of less variety, but Silver Fir is reminiscent of a London Grammar track and older release Grace is well-received, showcasing more delicate harmonies. Red Light Heaven slows right down in comparison to the album recording, but this variation works very well, moving the singer’s two instrumentalists into the spotlight too. The audience favourite appears to be Co-op, named after the supermarket: a catchy but thoughtful and dreamy musing on everyday life, accompanied by slow ripples of guitar.
Not overly chatty, the Brighton-based songwriter mostly allows the serene music and her pitch-perfect, almost ethereal vocals to do the talking. Sporting a red cap, Bess Atwell adds funny, relatable quips about clothing-related anecdotes between tracks that go down well with the audience too. In Time Comes in Roses, the lyrics lament, “Nobody thinks I’m special yet,” but it’s crystal-clear this is anything but the case.
Photos: Virginie Viche
For further information and future events visit Bess Atwell’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Red Light Heaven here: