Live Review: Ólafur Arnalds / Finn @ Union Chapel

By Talia Last edited 123 months ago
Live Review: Ólafur Arnalds / Finn @ Union Chapel

Ólafur Arnalds' mission, according to his press release, is "breaking classical music out of the tweed jacket and loafers and putting it into a t-shirt and trainers" – possibly a stylistic faux pas, judging by the fashionista we saw dressed in tweed on the tube on the way to Islington's Union Chapel on Saturday night. Fortunately we're not here to pass judgment on his fashion sense, only his music.

First though, we have to sit through Finn's set of ethereal folk. Dressed like a medieval troubadour, accompanied only by his own guitar and a violin and viola, Finn mumbles in a fragile falsetto (Thom Yorke has a lot to answer for) through a series of songs largely indistinguishable from each other. It's not an unpleasant sound, but there's nothing here to raise him above the many other purveyors of delicate alt-folk. His final song, a twee version of Moon River, raises the spectre of Eva Cassidy.

After an interval in which we witnessed a man's painfully bad attempt at chatting up a girl in the row behind us, Ólafur Arnalds comes on (in a fetching grey v-neck sweater, should you be interested). The publicity might suggest one of those Dad-at-the-school-disco attempts to make classical music seem trendy, but there's no Nige-style Mockney here. He eschews the saccharine sounds of most crossover artists in favour of something more austere – just a piano, a string quartet and some subtle electronica. He has a good ear for sonority, and his music, which brings to mind Arvo Pärt as well as his compatriots Sigur Rós, is engaging if perhaps a bit too well behaved. He's no more extrovert than Finn, but comes across as understated rather than reticent. Incident doesn't play much role here: it's about stillness and poise.

Peter Nagle

Last Updated 28 October 2008