March 24, 2016
Islington Assembly Hall
EMMY THE GREAT – Let’s face it, new album shows can be awkward. No such problem on a freezing Thursday in London as Emmy The Great broke the ice with new track, The Hypnotist’s Son. Laughter echoed round the Grade II listed theatre as she sang “Can’t tell if this is love or a stomach disorder.”
Laughter was a recurring feature of a thoroughly entertaining night as she captivated the crowd with wit and warmth. A definite highlight was Canopies and Grapes, recently updated to reflect the Zeitgeist: “Your absence has been felt like when Adele took vocal rest.”
Importantly, while the pop culture references were knowing and droll, they weren’t insincere. The lyric “Wish I could show you all the things that David Bowie helped me see” drew spontaneous applause. Similarly, the introduction to Phoenixes, a new track about River Phoenix and his family, was a genuinely heartfelt analysis of the interplay between fame, tragedy and personal history: “they’re also just siblings.”
Before you start thinking the show was a cross between stand-up and a socio-cultural sermon, don’t doubt that the performance was key. Emmy The Great (real name Emma-Lee Moss) shared striking bittersweet songs about lingering break-ups and private breakdowns with an angelic voice and a quality of stillness reminiscent of Jenny Lewis.
The classics were there, notably a spellbinding rendition of Paper Forest and a jaunty version of We Almost Had A Baby, complete with prom-style disco ball lighting.
Testament to the quality of the new album Second Love – judiciously teased via the 2015 EP S – the newer songs fit into the set as naturally and welcome as any fan favourite.
Attention to detail was evident musically. The richness of Swimming Pool’s backing vocal was preserved as Wild Beasts’ Tom Fleming joined in on guest vocals, and O Karmina was also on hand for subtle harmonies.
Swimming Pool was notable lyrically, too. The third album cliché of songs about a lavish lifestyle was subverted; it’s the rich kid’s pool, not hers. She still writes from the outside looking in.
When she looked out over a rapt crowd and said “I feel like I recognise you all, but that might just be because of London,” the trademark humour was there, but the underlying sentiment held true. The room was filled with friends and fans who would feel really, really bad if she took vocal rest.
O KARMINA – The support bands were the same as Emmy The Great’s EP launch show but the venue was vastly different. Emphasis on vast. The kind of place where a solo singer can seem lost.
Not this time. O Karmina‘s sultry-sweet voice was perfectly accompanied by the crystal clear sound and beautiful light show.
She dazzled as a silhouette bathed in a blur of dry-ice and the glow of spotlights, as quiet intros built to soaring runs Spellbinding.
DEMS – Dems seemed better suited to the the smaller stage of last year’s performance at Oslo in Hackney simply as the intimate space allowed for more interaction between the three band members, two with static instruments.
Nonetheless, some nifty instrument swapping allowed every band member their time in the spotlight.
As with O Karmina’s performance, the light show was a visual treat; an engaging backdrop to chilled out lo-fi beats punctuated with pleasing falsetto and delivered with passion.