It very nearly didn’t happen. For a while it looked as if Caro Emerald’s breezy melange of jazz, blues, latin and easy listening was going to fall flat. Despite a cracking opening brace of The Other Woman – with Caro Emerald singing from the circle – and Absolutely Me, the concert didn’t quite maintain that level, the sedentary applause was warm but only polite. And that would have been a shame as the engaging Ms Emerald was up and down the Hammersmith stage barefoot working band and audience.
But once the audience were up on their feet, and actually let the music in, they stayed there. It’s very hard not move to these irresistibly catchy songs. Consummate performer that Emerald is, the band are no slouches with each member given an opportunity to show their stuff. It’s invidious to pick one out but let’s go with Jeroen Verdag’s double bass runs on All About The Bass (though the song has precious little to do with instrument!)
That Caro Emerald went down a storm in the summer at the BBC’s Hyde Park Proms was no surprise as her songs, rhythms and personality are well suited to that sort of environment. Inside she is no less engaging, complemented by a tasteful light and back-projection production, the show is well drilled but not stripped of character and personality. That’s the skill of these performers, there’s a complex interaction between the singer and band that on a technical level is very tricky but translates into a performance that they are clearly enjoying and which the audience pick up on.
In some ways this is all quite old fashioned. Dredging the internet will find you countless performers (and bands) from way back laying down slick, swing numbers. So there’s a comfiness about the overall set and performance, much heard and loved, which could lead to a sort of faux nostalgia. But it’s nothing of the sort; it’s more a tip of the hat to that era than a wallow. Just take the very contemporary electro-beats of Liquid Lunch and the beautiful, Morriconesque writhing coils of The Lipstick on His Collar, one of the highlights.
One niggle is Last Christmas; it’s season appropriate and went down well but to these ears didn’t sit well in the context. But all is forgiven as they finish with a rousing A Night Like This. All in all a jewel of a performance.
Photo courtesy of Robert Bridgewater.