For tonight’s show, The Academy hasn’t looked so intimate and cosy since the days of HQ with the floor kitted out in seats and the stage adorned in tall sitting room-lamps and fairy lights. Opening the show tonight are Island Line or Hazel and Ian to their friends, a super cute blonde with a saccharine voice and a neater Russell Brand type on guitar. The duo are dishing out an acoustic set of upbeat romantic tunes on relationship advice, endless cups of tea and drinking in bed. Sweet and sincere, their album comes out next month and could certainly be one for Emiliana fans.
And Emiliana Torrini has legions of fans, a fiercely dedicated following, even touts were begging for tickets on Middle Abbey Street. When the lady herself takes to the stage there’s an immediate respectful hush. A couple of drunk girls (yeah you two on the steps) picked the wrong gig to chat about ‘Jason from accounts’. As they were burned with a wrath of icy stares, a rather ominous gentleman whispers a threat, silencing them with the fear of God. However, it was charming to see them ponderously swagger around their cider for the giddy -Big Jumps’ and later to reggae stride of -Me &Armini’ from her latest eponymous album.
Opening with -Fireheads’, Emiliana instantly displays what is most captivating about her. Apart from her cute-as-a-button-put-her-in-your-pocket-and-take-her-home-on-the-LUAS-beauty, she has the most delicate yet powerful voice; fragile and crystal clear. On -Heartstopper’ from Fisherman’s Woman her tone is arresting and controlled.
Just as controlled are her supporting band, two guitarists, a keyboardist and a drummer, who are a ramshackle variation of dapper to stylishly scruffy. This four-piece are easily, the finest, most impressive and skilful outfit witnessed in a very long time. Deftly intricate, the boys arrange perceivably simple songs with poignant detail. The creaking sound on -Lifesaver’, from 2005’s Fisherman’s Woman, had us swaying in our seats. On the touching -Ha Ha’, the drummer strums his cymbals with a violin bow while the guitarist scratches on the lower strings adding to the distressing intimacy. Throughout the show the band are subtly technical, with slide guitars, mandolin, organs, korg and some pretty wonderful percussion. Hats off.
The Icelandic chanteuse has another trump card. She is one of the most charismatic and engaging characters you’ll ever encounter. Her in-between song banter makes Beth Orton seem like stuttering Stanley. As she introduces each song with anecdotes and stories of their inception each individual is hooked on her every word. So adept at sharing her experiences, we are made feel inclusive to these songs creation as opposed to mere insight to their meaning. There’s a shared ownership. The tale behind -Birds’ exudes happiness, spreading wide grins throughout the performance. While -Bleeder’ was written for a beloved that lost a brother, and there was barely a dry eye in the house.
Beloveds. There may have been many. Though hopelessly romantic, Emiliana concedes to being too busy living life to pursue love but has many tales of her encounters. There’s likely to be a trail of broken hearts along her journey and there’s likely to be more. Flirting shamelessly with the audience during the encore it’s clear to see the sexual prowess she injected into her Grammy nominated Kylie-hit -Slow’.
And what an encore! Returning to a chorus of stamping feet Torrini and the boys run through eloquent renditions of -Fisherman’s Woman’ and -Brings Me Down’ before closing with the enveloping harmonies of -Beggar’s Prayer’. A truly splendid evening of unquestionable talent.
Photos by Julie Bienvenu.