Emma Louise @ Northcote Social Club
It was a diverse collective at the sold-out Northcote Social Club. One girl in the front with curly ropes of hair looked like Lulu from Human Traffic and another maturely wrinkled lady was patting people on the head in excited anticipation while the stage curtains were still drawn. The diminutive star of the night appeared in a deep red velvet dress with a white collar, and her now shoulder-length hair in Swedish braids. Opening with Seventeen Hours, the honeyed harmonies provided by sole backup singer Hannah Shepherd (who also played some excellent keys) drew the audience into a quiet reverie. Emma is very charismatic on stage but doesn’t truly realise her power, with slight unpretentious squints and sneers during the most emotive notes. While it was a pleasure to hear how pure her voice is, as she stuck loyally to her record’s sound, but this same approach let down the backing band a little. I expected more acoustic-ness in the performance, but there seemed too much of a disconnect between what the band was doing on-stage and what we were hearing. During Stain Ache, a shaker came in; after searching high and low on the stage there is still no material person to be seen actually playing it. More live percussion would have done wonders, despite the electronic elements in her sound.
Flannelette Sheets was a particularly gorgeous track, and it became obvious here that we were getting a big glimpse into her next album, due out in early 2013. With every chord in the song, Emma reached her hand back up to gently grasp the mic; it felt like she didn’t want to leave us long. A very present performer, the connection between her and the audience was strong.
The penultimate track was 1000 Sundowns, and Emma precluded it with a small speech about its meaning: her Auntie and Uncle met when they were 16, and were together every minute until her Uncle passed away from cancer. What followed was an astonishingly moving rendition, which I watched through teary eyes, I’m not ashamed to say. “I still don’t understand encores,” Emma laughed after the audience had cheered her back on to stage. Shepherd grasped her gold-ringed hands gently together in a most unaware way for the final song, as the two friends closed the show. Emma Louise is a disarming figure and so very there, when performing, that it wasn’t difficult to forget the room was packed.
BY ZOË RADAS
LOVED: That she’s obviously besties with her band.
HATED: Too many samples overshadowing said band.