Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Emmy The Great / It Hugs Back / Gabrielle Aplin @ Lancaster Library - Live Review

Lancaster Library has a great tradition of brilliant artists who have strummed, drummed and warbled amongst the bookshelves, including Florence and The Machine, Adele, The Wombats and, more recently, Slow Club. Today is the turn of anti-folk darlings Emmy the Great, fronted by Emma- Lee Moss.

One of two supports, and something of a Youtube star, Gabrielle Aplin’s husky voice certainly is beautiful. She includes a few covers in her set, including a rather gorgeous Bob Dylan cover, as well as her own rather clich├ęd songs. Despite this, ‘The Day the World Went Mad’ does prove a highlight, as a slightly spooky prediction of the London riots (written a week before the title was heeded). It does, however, get to the point when you wonder how many songs one girl and an acoustic guitar can rattle out before it gets tiresome. The answer seems to be not that many, though saying that, she is still young and her stage presence has time to grow and develop.

After a slow opener, Kent based outfit It Hugs Back definitely feel like a breath of fresh air, (they actually play electric guitar! And have a drummer!) arriving onstage without introduction, other than an open guitar case at the front, proclaiming their name. It is a pity that half the audience can’t seem to be bothered to stand up after the interval. Maybe the library floor is just that comfortable. They really look like they want to be there, grinning at each other every now and then; and play a brilliant set of spaced-out shoegaze-y indie.

Emmy the Great’s set contains the perfect mix of new and old material, including old favourites ‘MIA’ and ‘First Love’. ‘MIA’ is so beautiful it may just have produced a few tears from this reviewer. Moss’ songs seem to be fixated with religion, and more specifically her atheism; ‘Easter Parade’ and new one ‘Trelick Tower’ show this more than any (with Easter Parade comparing God to a ghost: "There is no such thing/ As ghosts"). Her wit and passion shine where Aplin’s mundane musings fell down; her songwriting is sharp and focuses on the real life as well as the surreal. The clarity of her voice, too, is beautiful, and when backed with the full band, the sound is powerful. Emma-Lee also has a charming stage presence, excited to be playing a gig in a library. On the request of an audience member ("Play the song about Diane Cluck!"), during an encore she plays ‘24’, and a spine-chilling rendition of ‘Edward is Deadward’. A beautiful, enchanting set, and thoroughly recommended.

By Holly Read-Challen

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