It's been just over two years since Emilie Autumn last embarked on a European tour but the multi-talented musical iconoclast is back with a brand new show entitled 'Fight Like A Girl' and, accompanied by her three Bloody Crumpets (Naughty Veronica, The Blessed Contessa and Captain Maggots), tonight is Nottingham's turn to experience this rather unique blend of satirical burlesque, provocative drama, glitter, performance art and, of course, some seriously kickass music, all wrapped up in a theatrical extravaganza that is unlike any other. And I gather the drama got just a little bit too real during soundcheck earlier in the day as Emilie sustained an injury to the side of her face through an unfortunate accident with an antique Victorian medical tool, so the scheduled 7:30pm stage time is delayed by just over half an hour. Adding to the confusion, and audience anticipation, the sound engineer prematurely plays the tension-building intro piece, 'Best Safety Lies in Fear', through the PA at 8:00pm which is greeted with vociferous screams, only for the crowd's excitement to be thwarted when it ceases after only a few seconds as the cheers subside into a communal expulsion of audible disappointment with a realisation that it's not quite time for the show to commence. But commence it does not long after that and, this time, the Asylum slowly comes alive.
In what is now a familiar stage entrance, it's the Bloody Crumpets who appear first, one at a time in silhouette behind the backlit iconic clock face before emerging to enthusiastic screams and cheers. However, it's the silhouetted appearance of a masked Emilie herself behind the clock that engenders the most rapturous audience noise to the opening beats of insomnia-themed set opener '4 o'Clock' and when she wanders out to prowl around the stage, the screams become deafening within the venue that is noticeably fuller than when she last performed at Rock City a couple of years ago. A definite sign her popularity has risen during that time. Although the large clock remains from Emilie's previous production, there are now concomitant oppressive bars that line the stage's extremities. Well, oppressive in the sense they initially represent incarceration within the context of the show's latest narrative but, as events unfold through each new song, they become more symbolic of emancipation; never more so than during one of the story's pivotal moments in 'It's Time For Tea' with the ostensibly genteel tea-time conventions subverted to become an empowerment metaphor. This time, it's all-out war in a battle to reclaim and transform the asylum into the ladies' haven. Cups of tea are ignited in a semiotic gesture of utilising the civilised drink as a symbol of revenge. It's all very provocative stuff.
'Opheliac' tracks still feature in the setlist but only those that fit into the structure of the story alongside brand new cuts from an, as yet, unreleased new album which will also bear the 'Fight Like A Girl' title. In one sense, it's a brave move in touring with new material prior to its actual release, and a reverse of the conventional album/tour chronology but this is no ordinary rock show - well, it bears very little relation to the conventions of your standard rock show - so the reverse chronology is quite understandable. And many present already seem to know the lyrics to the new tracks, obviously in no small part due to YouTube footage from last month's US tour. 'Opheliac' tracks take on renewed meaning within the context of the new story, and I gather are used in diachronic flashback to exemplify the events that engendered the revenge motif that's now come to the fore.
All in all, the new show is more emphatic in every sense - the general aesthetic is potently darker, the visuals are even more sublime and the comedic elements are (intentionally) funnier. Further, the choreography is slicker, tighter and more diverse; I am mightily impressed by the professional dynamic that binds the show together. And it remains the emancipatory, anti-repressive experience it always was with a final message of optimism imparted by the show's climactic piece, 'One Foot in Front of the Other', and the repetitively vocalised title throughout the song hammers home the positive sentiment of Emilie's continued philanthropic crusade. Pre-encore, Emilie stands visibly proud and discernibly exultant on Rock City's stage, clearly appreciative and moved by the fervent audience reaction she's justifiably received this evening, as she delivers a brief message about the importance of individuality. But it's not over yet; the crowd are treated to a couple more songs, 'Mad Girl' and perennial fan favourite 'Thank God I'm Pretty', with just about every person present in the venue singing the latter to which Emilie only joins in after a couple of verses.
Effectively, this new touring show is a small taster for Emilie's Broadway style musical that is currently under development, and it's primed perfectly for such based on the theatrically majestic performance I've had the utmost of pleasure witnessing in Rock City tonight. A Broadway residency, or run within London's prestigious West-End, is the next logical step. I, for one, cannot wait for the day when Emilie's dream of a full-on musical is finally realised.
Saturday 10th March 2012
Rock City in Nottingham, UK
Review & Photography by Mark Holmes
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Emilie Autumn at Rock City, Nottingham, UK, 10th March 2012
Photograph copyright © 2012 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com