Nothing Brings Her Down
Written By Ria Wilkinson Monday, June 29th, 2009
Island Line and Emiliana Torrini at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
Island Line tonight are duo Hazel and Ian – a delightfully folksy looking pair of long hair (him) and bare feet (her). Using Ian’s clearly skilful mastery of the acoustic guitar as the foundation, Hazel gently layers on some of her own tentative strumming or more assured organ keystrokes. The finishing touch is a generous drizzling of her pleasant but indistinctive vocals with occasional sprinkles from Ian.
The vocals relate frequently found themes such as relationships with Punchbag and Sweetheart to reminiscence of times past on Days Like These and Just Like The Old Days and whilst perhaps not at risk of being innovative, are at least engaging and indeed almost familiar. There are vague elements that remind of watching Eamon Hamilton (of Brakes fame) play his solo acoustic sets where his bluesyness surfaces more.
In common with Eamon, Hazel emotes her lyrics deeply – there are closed eyes, hand wringing, etc and combined with Ian’s adept guitar handling make the twosome a more charming watch than might initially be expected. The melodic and quite serene music laps over our ears as the humidity builds within the Brudenell and has just the appropriate relaxed appeal to entertain the amassing audience before Emiliana Torrini takes to the stage.
Emiliana Torrini – Iceland’s deputy foremost songstress – should first be commended on putting together a backing band of some of the most notable musicianship I have recently seen. Mentions in particular are deserved for the drummer who is unusually on the “wrong side” of 40, Cameron who appears to be able to play anything stringed from mandolin to zither and Ian from the support act Island Line who reappears to play the guitar foil to Cameron. A dedicated fellow also attends to keyboards, organ and glockenspiel and additional support comes from a bass guitarist on selected tunes. Together they form a wonderfully orchestrated and rich noise that enables Emiliana to successfully display the many differing influences of her music.
So to Emiliana herself. Her voice is clear and faithful to her recordings and the Icelandic lilt adds charm, warmth and intrigue to her enunciations. She wears a colourful short kaftan type dress that flutters about her as she moves which lends her an air of a butterfly as she flits about through her material. Whilst a butterfly might suggest beauty but fragility, Emiliana is far from brittle. Riding on the back of a curry washed down with beer and a cheeky request for the audience to buy her a whisky (request fulfilled several times), she is not the delicate little flower she may look. She also exhibits great stamina and along with her experienced band, she cruises through the lengthy 85 minute set despite the increasingly oppressive airlessness of the venue.
Dancing amongst her three internationally released albums (for she has two earlier works only available in Iceland), she soon alights for a generous foray into her second, Fisherman’s Woman, where her performance of tracks such as Lifesaver and Today Has Been OK feels as though she is greeting old friends. Perhaps despite being older material, it still carries the most emotional resonance for her. I believe many of the tracks (especially Fisherman’s Women for example) were inspired by the sudden death of her boyfriend at that time. Not material to fade from memory easily.
This is a rescheduled date on the tour to support her latest album (Me And Armini) on which the mood is certainly more uplifting with recent singles Jungle Drum and Big Jumps full of exuberance tonight for both life and love. Anecdotes, explanations, impersonations and other personal embellishments are littered throughout the evening and flaunt Emiliana’s delight in storytelling. She reveals more of herself, about being a rock chick in her youth (Bon Jovi and ACDC are mentioned), about her wide eyed naivety of first moving to London and about inspiration found in glasses of wine and remote cottages.
Music ranges from slight reggae of Me and Armini, to the Bowie’s Quicksand-esque Unemployed In Summertime via vague “Chill out” vibe of Birds. Occasionally the mood darkens with the pointed Ha Ha but the evening is about positivity so Dead Things, etc. is absent and Nothing Brings Me Down could be the abstract of tonight’s performance.
And so the evening slips by on sips of whisky.