thu 17/01/2019

Emeli Sandé, Usher Hall, Edinburgh | reviews, news & interviews

Emeli Sandé, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Emeli Sandé, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

The breakthrough star of 2012 returns to her homeland. But can she rouse the soul?

Emeli Sandé: in search of the spirit

Only an April fool would deny Emeli Sandé her right to rule as the home-grown pocket diva for the Smartphone generation. The current elfin queen of the UK pop charts took the stage in Edinburgh last night having already won over her capacity crowd on Amazon, i-Tunes and in miles of supermarket aisles.

Her proclaimed heroines are Nina Simone and Alicia Keys, and both are audible in her output. Sandé can certainly sing to stir the senses, but can she move the soul? My suspicion is that beneath the polish of her long fingernails is a more engrained layer of spirituality. Songs like “Next to Me” contain simple hymnal structures with a visceral quality that even multiple layers of high-end production cannot conceal.

The fans were there for the hits and duty required that they were served up in short order

A theatrically stringed overture prefaced her big entrance, but her self-effacing body language said “Oh stop it, it’s only me!” The packed house greeted her like a friend from the office. Still, she spoke politely, almost formally of her love for us, as if perhaps we were all attending a family prayer meeting.

The prayers looked like being answered early when “Where I Sleep” was presented with tincture of reggae in a stripped down band arrangement. A good start, but the fans were there for the hits and duty required that they were served up in short order.

Early technical difficulties were quickly conquered for “Breaking the Law”, a song that wants to be an anthem if and when it ever grows up. For now, it’s a blithe sing-a-long rather than an uplifting shared moment, and it characterises much of Sandé’s current repertoire. There were also moments during songs like “Heaven” and “Read all About It” when she and the band struggled for supremacy, but she eventually came out on top by the time they got to the centre-piece of “My Kind of Love”.

However, there were frequent hints that she may be minded to break her own mould, especially during a brave and poignant arrangement of “Suitcase”, performed with only a solitary bass guitar for accompaniment. The spirited crowd almost threatened to disallow it and for a moment we glimpsed the spiritual singer’s soul trapped, for now, in a pop stars’ body. Similarly, “The Half of It”, a fresh offering and a commentary on last year’s riots, is indicative of a broadening mind.

These thoughts were underscored by the solo piano delivery of “Clown” augmented only by some subtle synth strings. It was coupled with “River”, a reflective song that is melodically and lyrically among the most mature of her compositions. The criminally infectious “Next to Me”, in a purified form with naked hand-claps, Sandé’s voice and her congregation singing in unison, closed things out. It was just about then that I think we saw the real Emeli Sandé: happy, smiling and sharing the love.

For a moment we glimpsed the spiritual singer’s soul trapped, for now, in a pop stars’ body

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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