Noah Gundersen captivated audience with acoustic set

With no fanfare, Noah Gundersen walked onto the stage, sat down and began to play.

In the dark and drowsy heat of the nearly-packed Ladies Literary Club last Friday, the melody of the opening “Slow Dancer” might be likely to lull an audience to sleep — if it were sung by someone else. But Gundersen’s voice is one that demands attention.

Gundersen is currently touring solo, meaning that he had no opener and no band — each song was simply his voice, accompanied by his guitar or piano. No dazzling light show, no thundering bass drum, no catchy synthesizer hooks. Gundersen, however, doesn’t need any of those things to captivate an audience.

Because of the stripped-down aspect of the concert, there was nothing to distract the audience from the raw emotion of Gundersen’s painfully honest songs and the passion with which he performed them. Gundersen’s voice is beautiful, but more importantly, it is powerful and dynamic with wavering falsettos, belted and breaking choruses and gritty, almost whispered, low notes.

Most of what the singer-songwriter shared was songs from his most recent album, “Carry the Ghost” (2015). He also privileged the audience with a few new unreleased songs and an acoustic cover of Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark,” inspired, he explained, by the Springsteen concert he recently attended — and Courtney Cox.

The show began with an almost solemn tone: Gundersen played a couple songs back-to-back before breaking the tension by making a comment about the SAO review distributed to the concertgoers as they entered. “[The review] forgot to mention my ravaging good looks and sharp wit,” he joked, “but otherwise it was pretty spot on.”

The concert continued in a similar pattern. The audience listened in captivated silence as Gundersen poured out his heart through his music. Between songs, they laughed at his charmingly self-deprecating comments: “I just sit in my lofty antique chair and talk shit and sing about my feelings. It’s a great job.”

In the middle of the concert, Gundersen encouraged the audience about the value of art — it’s important, he said, to be passionate and make things that matter to you. The chorus of the song that followed, “Selfish Art,” says it best: “There’s nothing more sincere than selfish art. … There’s nothing more sincere than who we are.”

The concert portion of the “Evening with Noah Gundersen” was followed by a short session in which Gundersen responded to some questions from his fans. When asked what is important in a concert’s audience-performer relationship, Gundersen said it’s something that can be a hit-or-miss. But when it’s good, it’s the “closest thing to magic” he’s experienced.

After the show, Ken Heffner pointed out that, with the Ladies Literary Club on the market, Gundersen’s might be the last Calvin concert at the venue.

If it’s true, then, as Heffner said, that night — close to magic — would be a good way to end.