Ahead of Emily Wells' appearance, The Ruby Lounge in Manchester has a discernibly chilled Sunday night vibe. With only around 40 peeps in attendance, the 375 capacity venue might've felt somewhat vacuous if it wasn't for a series of candlelit tables placed strategically in front of the stage where the majority remain seated throughout the evening. As such, it creates an atmosphere of intimacy and, dare I say, exclusivity as just a rare few are set to experience Emily's music in the North West for what is only her second gig on British soil following her UK debut in London earlier this year (for fully justified reasons, she opted not to perform in Bristol last night). Wandering out to take position behind her array of instruments and tools, Emily's greeted with applause and cheers. And although a largely static, seated audience could be construed as disinterested, that proves to be far from the case as the initial applause and cheers grow in volume, intensity and enthusiasm as her hour long set progresses.
Opening in mellow, restrained fashion with the melodically sublime 'Los Angeles', she gradually builds and introduces layered grandeur into the track's minimalist opening, which serves as a perfect in to Emily's sonic universe. And it's a sonic universe of which she is indubitably the musical auteur, conducting and creating her autonomous one-woman orchestra with technical precision and an emotive flair. She radiates a cool demeanour without even trying to be cool - it's clear to see through her facial expressions that she's feeling the emotions of the music she performs. This is, indubitably, a virtuoso at work, not only through a flawless execution of the looped layers, but also in the depth of emotion she's able to convey. And that depth of emotion comes across as sincere and genuine. And while I'm in awe of Emily's skill level involved in interweaving all the different elements of her emotionally heterogeneous soundscapes, I also find myself affectively captivated by the sonic charms of her music. Despite the precision timing and skill level involved in what she does, I guess she makes everything look so effortless, so the technicality of her show proves to be no distraction, and it's the emotive power of the music itself which becomes the predominant focus.
'Stoker' track 'Becomes the Color' is aired second, and receives a few cheers over its opening bars, before Emily proceeds to entertain the audience with a mixture of 'Mama' songs, new tracks and some older numbers. With a whole array of instruments and looping/sampling equipment at hand, from live percussion to violin, one of the most potent tools in Emily's arsenal of sonic devices is her voice. Through her wide range and broadly expressive tones, she's able to colour the songs with a greater depth of emotion as she vocalises often poignant words with both fragility and power to convey affective dichotomies of melancholy and optimism; regret and satisfaction; pain and joy etc. It's thoroughly moving and absorbing stuff and, by the time she reaches her final track of the evening, the lengthy 'The Light is Draining', every member of the audience seems to have become equally absorbed by Emily's sonically affective prowess. She receives well earned, loud cheers from all present, as she exits the stage. A phenomenal performance from a phenomenal artist.
Sunday 8th December 2013
The Ruby Lounge in Manchester, UK
Review & Photography by Mark Holmes
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Emily Wells at The Ruby Lounge, Manchester, UK, 8th December 2013
Photograph copyright © 2013 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com