In live performance Emmy the Great (songwriter Emma Lee-Moss) fought her corner, albeit subtly, for anti-folk. She has been tied to this movement since playing for legendary promoter Sgt Buzfuz as one half of duo Contraband in 2003, and on Wednesday night those associations were confirmed.
The Glee Club proved to be a perfect setting for her style, rows of chairs facing a small raised stage giving the (hippy youthful!) collective the chance to explore her lyrics, the highlight of the gig. Sometimes described as wordy, she flitted over dramatic and personal themes, hiding the depression of break down and “almost having a baby” in between more jovial folk moments. To a more careful listener, something the awe struck seated room allowed, her wordiness revealed a subversive dark humour, full of philosophy and references to over-sexed Charles Bukowski (amongst many others!)
Her ensemble, a collaborative work comprising of Euan Hinshelwood of Younghusband, Tom Rogerson of Three Trapped Tigers, and Ric Hollingbery of Pengilly’s, sang solid “alleluia” fuelled harmonies throughout. Such gospel undertones harked to Damien Rice, where the combination of Emmy’s pronounced vocals lying on top of the male backers reinforced the emotive qualities of her lyrics. These lyrics are, in part, secretive, disarmed by her stage presence and her beauty, but they are also confessional, full of self-doubt. Maybe this is the draw for the check adorned teen girls that filled the Glee club, sitting transfixed by lessons from Emmy’s memory. For the male contingent, it was the orchestration rather than her diary entries that upheld the (e)motion of the gig. Clever clashes of clavichord and violin, and well-programmed backing from Tom Rogerson proved to be a welcomed antidote; it also made sense to prove their collective talents in the wake of their debut album “First Love”.