fri 24/01/2020

Absolutely Me, Caro Emerald, Brighton Centre | reviews, news & interviews

Absolutely Me, Caro Emerald, Brighton Centre

Absolutely Me, Caro Emerald, Brighton Centre

Sassy Dutch singer persuades a staid Brighton crowd to put on their dancing shoes

Hold onto your hats, it's the 21st century queen of swing

Caro Emerald first appears, spotlit, in one of the aisles of the Brighton Centre’s eastern balcony. Clad in a pleated knee-length black skirt and an eye-jarring yellow and red shirt that brings to mind Russian expressionist art, she kicks things off with the doleful, show tune-style paean to being a mistress, “The Other Woman”. It is a striking beginning and her concert grips the capacity audience by the scruff of the neck from thereon in. By the end of the song, after a twangy guitar solo instrumental break, she is down on stage with her supremely showy, talented, black-clad six-piece band. She breaks into the song for which this tour is titled, “Absolutely Me”, from her best-selling 2010 breakthrough album Deleted Scenes from the Cutting Room Floor.

Emerald is an odd proposition, a 34-year-old Dutch woman who plays jivin’ pre-rock'n'roll tunes with a contemporary twist and does not adhere to the lollipop-headed size zero female pop star stereotype. She makes the latter explicit mid-set with a brilliant sing-along cover of Meghan Trainor’s Fifties-flavoured international chart-topper and big girls anthem “All About That Bass”. She introduces it by jovially saying, “It’s obvious why I’m doing this one."

Everyone finally bursts into life and decides to join her party

For some reason, despite playing music that is, in many cases, much sassier, vibrant and more imaginative than much supposedly vanguard club music – bear in mind her last album knocked Rudimental off the top of the album charts in summer 2013 – she attracts a very staid crowd, mostly in their fifties and sixties. They are an especially torpid bunch, constantly hissing “Shhhhh” at each other, even during bouncy, loud numbers, sitting stock still in their seats as if they were at the theatre watching a Harold Pinter play. I can never understand this type of crowd. It’s nothing to do with age. Status Quo playing this same venue had masses of people in their seventies rocking out with abandon. That said, unlike when I saw Emerald here last year, by the end, she has most of the auditorium on their dancing feet.

Before we reach that point she rips through an hour of material that ranges from the bubbly drama of her recent boring boyfriend-themed single “Quicksand”, to letting her brass section channel spaghetti western-era Ennio Morricone on the intro to “Lipstick on His Collar”, to indulging in an accordion-accompanied sliver of Parisian street music. The spirit of Duane Eddy is never far away either.

The song, however, that transforms her audience from stuffy to lively is the fabulous electro-swing tribute to daytime drinking, “Liquid Lunch”. From then on, with the likes of the relentlessly energetic “Tangled Up”, a new song called “Helicopter Boy” and the sweetly melodic 21st century Doris Day vibe of “A Night Like This”, the Brighton Centre is transformed. Everyone finally bursts into life and decides to join her party. It’s a tribute to her supremely contagious sense of showmanship that Caro Emerald achieves this and, when she eventually waves goodbye, she leaves her audience joyous and sated.

Overleaf: Watch Caro Emerald's full set live at Glastonbury Festival 2014

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