Emeli Sandé + Calum Scott @ Genting Arena, 25 October, 2017

With the huge success of Emeli Sandé’s debut album, Our Version Of Events, being over five years ago she has done well to keep up momentum. This first record saw much success with soulful beats in hit songs such as Next To Me and Wonder, plus the more mellow yet incredibly heartfelt Read All About It, leaving Sandé’s impressive vocal talent lingering in our minds.

Tonight is about her long awaited second record, Long Live The Angels, and the crowd is filling up nicely, waiting for her to arrive. As I sit high overlooking the stage it sounds like they are still building the set, though it shows itself to be a relatively simple set of three glass boxes, which are hardly used, and a huge video backdrop which changes mesmerisingly throughout her set.

Starting the evening with Hurt, a song from Long Live The Angels, it is clear to hear Emeli Sandé is struggling through illness, something which does noticeably affect her performance, but she carries on regardless. The audience seems reserved initially, sensing that Emeli is not at her absolutely best tonight, however throughout the show she is backed up by a fantastic brass section, along with three brilliant backing vocalists and a two strong percussion musicians who really help to drive the overall performance.

Once she starts to get into the swing of it, she heads off the main stage and the gigantic backdrop initially showing abstract videos takes a sentimental turn. We see a variety of people talking about their love for Emeli’s work which many may interpret as self indulgent. However, her songs brimming with passion and being so personal to her this seems more an exercise in gratefulness than ego-stroking.

We switch focus to Sandé’s appearance centre arena near the sound desk. A single piano and spot lighting makes this gig suddenly feel far more intimate, despite such a large crowd. She takes this opportunity to strip everything back to her musical roots playing piano for the song Clown, a clear favourite amongst the crowd. It is in this moment, when she apologises for her voice not being as she would like, the audience relaxes somewhat. Perhaps they recognise her acknowledgement that she is not at her best, but then gain a new appreciation for her soldiering on to give the best performance she can muster. Her hope for this evening is to get the messages across in her music, as such she goes on to the beautiful piano accompanied Read All About It, the lyrics made all the more poignant by her mentionof this songs part in the 2012 London Olympics closing ceremony and how passionate and united this country was for that particular event.

Back on the main stage, the show has a new energy about it. Uplifting tracks of birds at dawn with visuals of a red sun rising remind us of Sande’s influence of her Zambian roots in the stand out song Babe, last tune on Long Live The Angels, which she introduces as a message of hope. An almost reggaeton or samba feel-good version of this tune (personally, I feel, is better than the original) getting everyone up on their feet dancing along with the epic percussive beats, makes this song ring out around the arena as a hugely memorable live call to action.

The whole band keeps this newfound energy going throughout Highs & Lows and Next To Me, where Sande gives her backing vocalists a chance to show off their varied vocal talents, a move really showing her trust in this fantastic band. The encore solely featuring a wonderful harmony-filled rendition of Beneath Your Beautiful, in duet with her bassist Mike Davies, leaves the audience seemingly content. Despite her vocal issues tonight this crowd, I think, has finally been hard-won. 

Reviewer: Katie Foulkes

Photographer: Arta Gailuma


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