Photo: Tim Ellis
Tonight is Emmy the Great‘s first time performing in Bristol since 2011’s sell out gig at the Fleece. It has been a while since she was last in town but people haven’t forgotten about her.
Only half an hour after doors, London trio Dems come onstage to play a short set of soulful electro-indie. It is the first night of the tour and apparently quite a bit of their set hasn’t been performed live before. The band leave an impression but there isn’t really enough to set them apart from other similar acts. Dems’ drummer is to join Emmy the Great’s live band later on but on bass and keys rather than percussion.
After taking to stage quietly to perform a solo rendition of ‘The hypnotist’s Son’ Emma Lee Moss is soon joined by her 3 piece backing band. The set up is noticeably different to her previous backing groups. The electric guitar, bass and drums are still there but gone are the acoustic guitar and the violin to be replaced with more keyboards and a sampler. This makes sense as her new album Second Love is less folksy and has a more studio based electronic sound than her previous efforts 2009 debut First love and 2011’s Virtue.
It is hard to believe that her last album was released five years ago, but as Emma and her band break into second song ‘Dinosaur Sex’ it feels as if she has never been away. However the reason tonight is happening is not mid-noughties indie-folk nostalgia, but a showcase for Emma’s recently released third LP. About half the set is from Second love, which doesn’t seem to matter much as the songs are just as good as her previous output.
Despite the use of electronic instruments Emmy has not gone dance, she merely uses different instrumentation to try and keep things fresh. The new songs are just as heartwarming as before but come across more mature and less ‘quirky’. From the south African guitar flourishes of ‘Constantly’ to the ghostly samples of ‘Dance With me’ Emmy is expanding her palette which adds variety to the set. Her new sound suits the songs making them sound contemporary whilst retaining a timeless organic quality.
The night’s biggest cheer is for her debut album’s title track, the Leonard Cohen quoting ‘First love’. Other highlight’s are 2011’s ‘Paper Forest’ and last year’s ‘Swimming Pool’ which is received like an old classic, with many audience members silently reciting the lyrics along with Emma. The curfew is an early one due to the venue’s Friday club night, but Emmy is still able to return for a three song encore. She starts with ‘Easter Parade’ which is chosen by the audience after initial requests for ‘Zombie Christmas’ are declined after being deemed unseasonal.
Seeing Emmy the Great again after a five-year gap is like having a hug from an old friend. Artists a few albums into their career can often be found repeating themselves but Emma Lee Moss has effortlessly managed to reinvent her sound whilst keeping everything that has made her music great in the first place.
Check out ‘Swimming Pool’ right here: