Emiliana Torrini at St Giles in the Fields Church

10th October 2008 – 9.30 am

'We are here to sing psalms', says Emiliana Torrini, in her wonderful Icelandic accent, as she thanks everyone for turning up. 'I thought I'd have to bribe you all to come here.' She needn't have worried, as each and every pew in this active church is full, spilling over with people sitting on the floor, all to see and hear her perform. The choice of venue may be different but it is a perfect setting. There is an air of reverence in the room that is rarely found in other venues, perhaps because the clean and decorated church doesn't lend itself to being treated like a dump, unlike the dark and dingy auditoria found elsewhere.

It is perfect because all attention is on Emiliana and her band during the whole set. There is no conversation to interrupt the beautiful singing or guitars, and you can almost hear a pin drop between songs. At least, when Emiliana is not entertaining us with her charming banter or telling a humorous anecdote whilst one of the fifteen guitars they have on the road with them is being tuned. The first song is Fireheads, also the first song from her latest album, Armani and Me, followed up by the amazing Heartstopper, one of my favourites from the previous album. Emiliana describes Heartstopper her 'Jon Bon Jovi song' and mentions that she wanted to get wind machines to blow the long, rock-star hair of the guitarist and keyboard player, an amusing image brought alive by her vivid movements.

Introducing another song, Emiliana says that 'this is a song about love. ...duh', she catches herself, realising how many of her songs, and songs in general, are about love. 'I like to think of myself as the Icelandic Julio Iglesias. Singing my pants off.' I think no one is in any doubt of her ability to do so either. Her voice is amazing, the acoustics in the church and the respectfully quiet audience allowing every note to be savoured, whether Emiliana is 'do-do-do'ing through the gloriously happy Big Jumps or sustaining long beautiful notes in the moving Bleeder, two of my favourites from the new album.

Another favourite of mine is introduced as a song she wrote when in love. 'You know how it is when you're in love and you're in that phase where you just say things like "I think you're amazing", and you give them a CD saying "I wrote this song for you". They expect to hear "your hair is like a golden storm on my pillow" but then they hear this instead', and the band play Jungle Drum, which is as pounding and energetic as the evocative name suggests. It's hard to see how that love song could fail, as it is impossible not to be completely charmed when Emiliana Torrini emulates the jungle drum-pounding of her heart, singing 'budda-dong-a-dong-dong' and 'r-r-ron-gon-gon'.

Most of the new album is played through, with Gun being as atmospheric live as I had imagined it would be, along with a few from previous album Fisherman's Woman, including the affective Today Has Been Okay, before Emiliana announces and plays the final track and the band head off stage. They are inevitably brought back for an encore, with the applause not dying down until they return. Emiliana is 'glad you did that, because we really want to play more songs', but before they do she remembers to introduce the audience to her band. It is only the second gig they have played together as a band, and they are all happy to receive such a hearty reception. Emiliana is certainly having a wonderful time, enjoying performing for an appreciative audience, and we are all having an equally wonderful time being entertained by a delightful singer.

The evening's set is brought to a close, and every song from the new album has been played, highlighting how accomplished the album is. The final song of the night is Beggar's Prayer. About a broken heart it is a moving and emotional song, and 'moving and emotional' is an ideal description of the night. Sitting in pews listening to Emiliana Torrini sing her psalms to us is a stirring experience and the songs gain an extra dimension having them performed with such feeling. This is an evening I never want to forget.

  1. 2 Responses to “Emiliana Torrini at St Giles in the Fields Church”

  2. Great review of a great gig - loved all the little stories - what an amusing lady she is! :-)

    By Danielle on Oct 10, 2008

  3. Yes, she is thoroughly entertaining!

    By pjharvey on Oct 11, 2008

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