Emma Stevens / Hattie Briggs - The Victoria - Dalston
Tonight is the second date in an impressive, 11 date jaunt around around the mainland to promote here rather wonderful new EP "Atoms". The Victoria is one of those underused but quite endearing venues but is the perfect setting for a high quality evening.
Starting the evening was TEAMw21 favourite, Hattie Briggs, currently coming off the back of her own massive UK tour supporting Alfie Boe, such is the ying and yang of the music business that her last London show was at the Royal Albert Hall, tonight the smaller more intimate stage of the Victoria had to suffice. Having recently played so many shows, in performing terms she is on the top of her game and so a six song warm up for Emma was probably something of a breeze. From the opening notes of "Never Been In Love Before", she succeeded in delivering a set of high quality, with crystal clear vocals backed mainly with guitar with a slight keyboard diversion. This time round the song was delivered with something of a groove, with Hattie visibly bouncing up and down as sang. Having released so much material over the last 18 months she has a huge catalogue to dip into, it was back to her debut album for the next track "Old Eyes" delivered as being about "an old friend" which is true if not quite completely revealing,
A self confessed Eva Cassidy fan , her cover of "Fields Of Gold" that has served her so well while busking was delivered slightly slower with her guitar picked in the gentlest possible manner to great effect, this was top quality performing. The only diversion to the piano was for "Just Breathe" where again it was a privilege to witness such delicate playing and singing at close quarters. If there was something of a groove going for the opener then it was there in spades for "Up To You", one of Hattie's exceptional singles of 2018, with some louder guitar playing having to make up for the missing trumpet from the record. Hattie then joked about her GCSE French not helping enough to to allow her to compose the whole of "Ma Regine" in French however her version tonight would surely have earned an A* for pronunciation in a quite exquisite version. With promise of a headline London show to come later in the year this was a potent reminder of just how great a live performer she is.
The last time we saw Emma Stevens, was at Bush Hall where in an "In The Round" session supporting Jenn Bostic, where she reminded us just how good she is. Having just witnessed the set from Hattie, it possibly pushed her on to even greater heights, as tonight she was highly entertaining and filling the room with something of an uplifting spirit, that would have surely cheered even the hardest of hearts. Sandwiched between 2 Sam's ( Whiting on lead Guitar, with other half Rommer on bass, foot drum or foot tambourine as required ), Emma completed a tight little unit switching between Guitar and Ukelele as the evening progressed.
The stage had been set with the Sam's having their mic stands draped in plastic sunflowers, while Emma's was covered in flowers that lit up. Starting with the bright and breezy "Once" and "Simple Things" the mood for the evening was set to positively upbeat, with Emma positively beaming throughout immediately building a great rapport with the assembled throng. There was some lovely word play in the "Money Can't Buy Me", which gloriously upbeat and hugely enjoyable.
If things started well, they were to move to another level with the first song from her new EP, the title track "Atoms". A slower paced song, so clever in many ways none the least than in its slightly offbeat chorus that sees Emma pronounce the word Atoms elongated and rising to great effect. From there the pace barely dropped, the sassy words of "Make My Day" included a funky bass and a singalong in a song detailing the demise of a relationship in the most positive way possible.
Emma has recently returned from a 2 week tour of China where she has become an unlikely star after having one of songs used in a TV show. Her next song the new "Capuccino Song" was an enjoyable bit of fun, even incorporating a rep from bassist Sam. Emma's band played a key role in the success of the night with their ability to add backing vocals, never more so than on "This Is For You" which started as a slow ballad before being built up by the the 2 Sams. Taking it's inspiration from the non smiling responses of people in Guildford High Street this was something special, as was the next song "Singer Of My Song" which slowed the mood but made you feel spiritually uplifted as you listened to Emma's heartfelt passion as she told us why she performs.
A slight break saw an additional singer take to the stage in Amy Lawton, who looked both amused and mortified in equal measures at the number of cameras that suddenly became focused on her. She took the opening verse of a slowed down version of Katrine & The Wave's "Walking On Sunshine" with Emma taking the second in a successful reworking. It was back to the new EP for the single "Because It's You" as exemplary a bit of pop music as you could hope for.
One of the real special moments of the evening was "Sunflower", introduced with a deeply personal story, a little clearing of the throat proceeded the opening which was just Emma and her guitar at first, with the band joining in later with thoughtful contributions that suited perfectly in a quite delightful version. An unusual diversion followed in a cover of James "Sit Down", which gave the audience another chance of a singalong before finishing on her rip roaring song, the ever upbeat "Riptide".
The encores consisted of "A Place Called You" complete with whistling and the the "musical hug" for her sister "The Star That Guides You Home" with the backing vocals really lifting the chorus. It brought to an end a quite wonderful evening and left us heading out into the streets of Dalston, feeling just that bit better about the world than when we entered.
Emma Stevens "Atoms" is available now - Tour dates are listed below.