Enigmatic, Endearing, and Enlightening: Laufey’s Bewitched Concert

By: Kelli Gunning

Photo: Blythe Thomas

“Have you heard of Laufey?” This is a question whose answer has rapidly turned from “no” to “yes” over the past months. Some happily call her a jazz artist, while others passionately debate the very concept. Personally, I wouldn’t put her in the jazz category, but that’s because there is no category for Laufey. She’s an artist who blends all of her tastes together to create something special. And on Saturday, October 28, I got to personally witness the way she performs her unique discography. 

Laufey’s second album, Bewitched, is an excellent display of her clever fusion of indie, jazz, classical, and other genres. She leans into her love for jazz standards with tracks like “Misty”, shows off her classical upbringing and compositional skills in “Nocturne (Interlude)”, and even dabbles in rock with the song “Lovesick”. Still, she manages to maintain a cohesive message throughout the entire album. 

With a setlist so wonderfully varied, I didn’t know what to expect upon entering her concert in 2023. Unlike her 2022 tour of Everything I Know About Love, the size would be grander, the setlist even more diverse—and her popularity had exponentially increased. What kind of concert would this one be? Would she lean into jazz traditions and serenade us, or entertain us with high energy, as is the tradition with pop music?

I found that my question was not entirely answered as her voice floated through the concert hall. As someone who grew up listening to jazz and is now studying classical music, the energy of the concert was like none I’d ever experienced before. Her music is heavily influenced by jazz and classical, and the listening experience is intimate and empathetic. When she sang the songs in her sultry alto voice, I felt myself leaning in to soak it up, like she was singing straight into my headphones. 

But at the end of the day, Laufey is a pop artist, and this was a pop concert with a pop atmosphere. When she sang, the audience sang back to her and cheered her name. The music was graceful and sweet, but the energy from the audience was enthusiastic and even boisterous at times.

Still, Laufey’s popularity is very recent, and I could tell that she is still adjusting to the spotlight. Her entrance was anticlimactic, she walked out while the lights were down, picked up her guitar, let the intro play… the spotlight didn’t even shine on her until she opened her mouth to sing. There was no fanfare to declare her entrance, and she didn’t so much as wave to acknowledge us. 

She opened with a couple of slower tunes, “Fragile” and “Valentine”, her quiet, classically-trained self standing out front behind her guitar. It was an endearing beginning, her familiar, low voice luring us in. But right after that, she put away her guitar, picked up the microphone, and awkwardly stepped into her version of a pop star persona. “Dreamer” and “Falling Behind” picked up the energy and got us dancing in our seats. The concert went on like that—Laufey jumping from guitar to microphone to cello to piano, showing off her instrumental skills with only hints of flashiness dotted in between. 

During the concert, I wondered why Laufey decided to put the slower tunes first instead of starting with the more upbeat songs to bring up the energy quickly. But, as fellow concertgoer Maria Delaney observed, “She puts her music first.” Laufey never entered the industry for money or fame; her music doesn’t exist to entertain. She writes her songs to express, to connect, to inspire, and even to educate. And that’s exactly what she did in her performance. Yes, she entertained us, but it wasn’t her priority. 

And what a gift it is for her to have such a supportive fanbase! Her fans are willing to simply sit and listen to what Laufey has to say, rather than tell her what kind of music she should make. The audience screamed along to “From the Start” and fell into a mesmerized silence as she sat at the piano and played her entirely instrumental “Nocturne (Interlude)”. There’s so much respect for her, and so much trust in her sincere talent. 

If she continues to grow in popularity (which I’m positive she will), Laufey will most likely be tempted to slip into an easily marketable category. But I hope that she’ll continue to be true to her music, knowing that her mixed genre is what makes her so beautiful to so many people.