Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Emmy The Great + Exlovers @ Brighton Komedia / Resident Records

"It’s cool that it’s snowing and we’re completely unplugged," smiles Emma Lee-Moss, the singer songwriter more commonly known as Emmy The Great. Perched atop the counter at the best record store in Brighton, Resident Records, Emmy is here to play a free early evening set with little amplification and not even a microphone stand. Instead she asks a member of the audience to hold the mic for her so that she can play her guitar. Accompanied by just a violin the simplicity of the set highlights her often thought provoking and sometimes disturbing lyrics; "They pulled a human from my waist, it had your mouth, it had your face, I would have kept it if I'd stayed," she sings staring hard at the audience on City Song. Despite this intensity, Emmy has a warmth with her banter that keeps the snow at bay. "Are we going to have to eat CD’s and start mating with each other?" she asks after suggesting that everyone may get snowed in tonight. Fortunately mating is not required, only a short walk along the ice wrapped slabs of the North Lanes to the main event at the Komedia later in the evening.

In the basement darkness of the Komedia, main support band Exlovers bring their jingle jangle guitars and boy girl harmonies to Brighton. The recorded version of Just A Silhouette is sparkling and sprightly, but tonight both the bands appearance and sound is lackadaisical, the vocals languid, the guitars sounding just a little too distorted to do their songs any justice. The whole performance seems too straightforward and pedestrian indie, misjudged to an audience that for the most part are seeking gentle folk thrills, with seventy per cent of the crowd sitting on the floor of the supposedly standing area.

Then it’s Emmy again. With her second performance of the evening brings a full band. Against a backdrop of tiny white lights Emmy displays a calm detached stillness that charms the appreciative silent crowd. In between songs she maintains the engaging and amusing dialogue that seems to be an integral part of any Emmy The Great gig. "My manger doesn’t think I would get past the auditions of X Factor," she jokes. The musicianship is delightful, a gentle flush of acoustic folk touched with a hint of Joni Mitchell in the vocal that shows the benefits of playing numerous shows. We Almost Had A Baby even adds an unusual late 50's / early 60's influence to her gentle sound.

Unfortunately by halfway through the set some doubts concerning the ability of this balladry to hold the attention begin to creep in. The lyrics are intelligent, observant, detailed and sometimes just plain funny, as on one of her oldest and best songs The Hypnotists Son, where she sings "Every time that I think of you, I have to go to the toilet, can’t tell if this is love, or a stomach disorder." However the melodies have a tendency to meander. Although in recorded form this may bring a more longer lasting and satisfying experience as one delves into the complexities of the song, in the live arena unfamiliarity can sometimes be helped by a degree of immediacy.

This doesn’t seem to bother the highly attentive crowd however, who lap up every moment, and Emmy The Great certainly seems to have achieved ‘job well done’ status tonight. It will be interesting to see if the album, when released next week, can fully hold the attention through sophisticated song craft or if the lack of in between chat will be much missed.

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