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A Goddess on Earth: Laufey at Massey Hall

There is no one I consider more fortunate than myself on the night of May 1st, sitting in the audience at Massey Hall, watching Laufey at my first ever concert. The jazz-pop singer graced Toronto for a second sold-out night promoting her new album in “Bewitched: The Goddess Tour.” After listening to Goddess for the first time and transcending planes, I found myself determined to see her in concert, though all fans know the difficulty and expense of such an endeavour given her rapidly rising popularity. Through what can only be understood as a blessing from the Goddess herself, I found myself that night in a centre-seat on the balcony, with two empty seats beside my friend and I which accommodated my singing (screaming).


Before I proceed, I want to ensure no one is reading Laufey and pronouncing it as “Law-fee”. An acceptable pronunciation is “Lay-vay”, however the most accurate is “Loy-vay”. Her unique name comes from her half-Icelandic heritage. She grew up in Reykjavík where her Chinese half often felt out-of-place, a source of inspiration for many of her songs, particularly Letter to My 13 Year Old Self. At just 25 years old, Laufey has taken the world by storm through her intertwining of jazz and classical music into mainstream pop and its themes, earning her a Grammy award for best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. With a voice as resonant and polished as hers, one would think she has dedicated a lifetime to singing, however she actually began with the piano and cello first, and was even enrolled into the renowned Berklee College of Music as a cellist. Her background in classical music has sprouted a mission to introduce the genres of classical and jazz to Gen Z, taking us back, and teaching us to appreciate the technical nuances of these styles.

Wasia Project

Laufey’s expertise also translates into a phenomenal taste in music. Although I had never before heard of Wasia Project, the opening act, their set had me instinctively pulling out my phone to activate Shazam. Their simplistic setup made me believe they were a high school or college garage band but that was disproven about ten seconds into the performance. Olivia Hardy did not come to play. Angsty, futuristic, ethereal,  Wasia Project’s emotions were carried through Olivia Hardy’s singing, often bringing her knees to the ground and her head turned up, facing the ceiling. Drummer Luca Wade and keyboardist William Gao built up tension in the grand hall, pricking up our heart rates until Olivia Hardy created a tremendous release with her haunting melismatic vocals. New additions to my playlists include Petals on the Moon, Is This What Love Is?, and impossible.


On my way out of the hall before Laufey came on, the sea of hair bows I saw in the concert hall became faces and pretty dresses. There is truly no place I could feel safer than at a Laufey concert. Lauvers, as we so fondly like to call ourselves, are inherently sweet. Walking to the space outside the hall, the chatter was painted with compliments and laughter. There was a photobooth-like backdrop with the tour’s name in front of a large queue of frilly skirt-wearers. I also found the infamous "Little Laufey Library” in which concertgoers are encouraged to leave a book they love and exchange it with another. Representing Laufey’s book club was a table laden with Jane Austen and other novels, in partnership with Queen Books Toronto where I picked up my free bookmark! When my friend and I found ourselves in need of a third hand to take a picture in our Laufey-esque outfits, we had no trouble finding someone kind and willing to understand my digital camera and get all the angles we wanted. 

The atmosphere was abuzz with eager anticipation throughout Wasia Project’s spellbinding opening act, and the orchestra’s tuning, right up until the moment Laufey gracefully pranced onto stage in her swan-like dress. With raucous applause and screams, the audience’s love and adoration for Laufey was a tangible thing that filled the air. The backdrop of twinkly stars gleamed to life, as well as the audience, upon her entrance. She dived straight into her first song, While You Were Sleeping, a personal favourite of mine, allowing everyone’s heart rates to return to normal. Purple lights created a dimly lit scene at dusk, fitting for the theme of the song. A series of circular white lights, like much larger stars shone at the drum’s crashes and pivotal moments. I find it lucky I caught her on the second night. She was wearing a gorgeous white tulle dress that made her reminiscent of a ballerina. She stood out like a moon against the darkness of the “night sky.” Our biggest source of light.


During the more popular songs, the Lauvers in the audience banded together to form an impromptu choir, accompanying songs like Let You Break My Heart Again, although still not comparable to her professional backing vocals. In one such well-known song, Valentine, Laufey brought out her red guitar to accompany her. Even though she had a semi-circle platform of instruments, from a string quartet to a double bass, we found her jumping to accompany herself on more instruments. Multiple guitars, the piano, and the most highly anticipated – the cello. Another major contributor to the song was the audience’s perfectly in tune singing. Everyone sang, hitting all the jazzy accidentals of the music, with the enthusiasm they would bring to an Olivia Rodrigo concert – it was quite an amusing sight. For later songs following Promise, Laufey moved onto the three-tiered circular platform in the centre of the stage, now lit up on the rims with a luminescent white changing to blue. Her piano skills are something to marvel at. Her entirely instrumental composition, Nocturne (Interlude), was played in the dark only illuminated by the platform. It was like watching a mini modern Chopin. My favourite song of hers on the piano is definitely California and Me, which I have had on-repeat since.


Falling Behind

Much can be said about Laufey’s stage presence. Contradicting the formal grandeur of a filled concert hall and an orchestra, Laufey constantly reminds us that she is not a Goddess (in vain) when her boy troubles and anecdotes seem ever so relatable. Her introductions and preambles before she began another song were so fitting and well-thought out as well. Right before Promise, she walked up the platform, asking “have any of you ever been in some sort of relationship or..?”, abruptly stopping, remarking “probably not ‘cause you’re at a Laufey concert,” earning her a wave of laughter and gasps. It seems she understands us as well as we understand her. In her prelude to Bored she asked if the audience has ever met a guy that was “just so fucking boring.” The swearing definitely caught me off guard. She then strolled about the stage, sitting on the circular platform at times, dramatically singing about how she “wept in her room last night.”


For her final song, she played her best, or most famous card, From the Start. Fans and newbies alike found themselves singing in unison, even in harmony. In the middle of the song, where there is supposed to be a scatting improvisational section, we instead found Junia, Laufey’s identical twin sister, skipping onto the stage with her violin in hand, wearing a black ensemble, and a wave of shocked and excited screams. Night and day, light and dark, Laufey and Junia got to be sisters on stage, performing to each other, forgetting about the rest of the world. Our high was soon brought to a halt when Laufey thanked everyone, bid her goodbyes and skipped off stage. Between the prolonged, deafening applause, were screams for Laufey – an encore. An encore we were lucky enough to get with Letter to My 13 Year Old Self, a more emotional song, but a classic. I prided myself on not shedding a single tear throughout the show right up until this final song. It was just Laufey and her guitar. Junia, the orchestra, the backing vocalists abandoned the stage and it was just us and her, alone in the hall. One of the most memorable moments was when Laufey sang “one day, you’ll be up on stage, little girls will scream your name,” and we all screamed her name, reminding her that she really has made it.


Promise

The performance and introduction were heartwarming. She talked about her gratitude and her sense of accomplishment, telling us that she feels she could stop right now and feel ultimate success. She encouraged everyone to follow their dreams, chase their passions and see them through, dryly noting if she could do it, so could we. She truly is an inspiration. A mark on what is possible. She started out just like anyone but her consistency, her faith in herself and her own talent made her outshine everyone else.


My only critique of her carefully curated setlist was that it wasn’t long enough. Perhaps she has a few too many favourites but fans like me hoped to hear James and Magnolia among others. Her setlist was as follows:

  1. While You Were Sleeping

  2. Valentine

  3. Second Best

  4. Dreamer

  5. Falling Behind

  6. Beautiful Stranger

  7. I Wish You Love

  8. Promise

  9. Like the Movies

  10. Nocturne (Interlude)

  11. Let you Break My Heart Again

  12. California and Me

  13. Goddess

  14. Fragile 

  15. Bewitched

  16. Bored

  17. Lovesick

  18. From the Start Encore:

  19. Letter to My 13 Year Old Self




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Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

I felt like I was witnessing the concert as I read this! So poignantly written!!

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