Emiliana Torrini at Royal Festival Hall

14th September 2009 – 5.01 pm

There is not much I can add to my previous reviews of Emiliana Torrini gigs. Her voice is still wondrous and the songs beautiful, capturing times and emotions with vivid imagery reflected in the lyrics and music that alternates between optimism and confusion. But this time we find out why Torrini takes every opportunity to share her funny stories between songs, telling us it is because the guitars are constantly having to retune, a fault she points towards her co-writer insisting on different tunings for every song.

Emiliana Torrini's personal asides and reflections are just another gem of her performance, never shying away from saying what is on her mind or pretending the audience doesn't exist. Not only does Torrini share her recent incident of being labelled a 'toilet pervert' after taking a noisy mobile 'phone photograph of a fake-wood cubicle door, but she freely admits that the thought of playing this London gig, in Royal Festival Hall, has been worrying her for a while. In her own words, the gig 'has been making me shitting myself', but she is thankful that the audience has made her feel welcome and appreciated, which is echoed at other times when Torrini says that she wants to make a twenty-minute mix of Jungle Drum just so that she can stand on stage and sing for longer.

Many favourites from current album Armani and Me are played, including the titular track. Gun sounds better each time it is played in a big room with excellent acoustics, the finger snaps and growling guitar suited to a live, amplified performance. I melt to hear the beautiful Beggar's Prayer, again extended being played live, layers of vocals drifting hauntingly around the venue. And Birds has become a firm favourite of mine after hearing it played live at each gig, the middle section of the song adding a powerful authority to the coda.

But whilst all the songs heard before are as vivid and exciting as ever, it is the addition of tracks from Emiliana Torrini's mostly ignored first album that add a new dimension to the gig. We are first introduced to To Be Free, followed by the youthful Unemployed in Summertime, before ruminations on Tuna Fish complete the Love in the Time of Science retrospective. The old songs fit nicely with the rest of the set, and the updated arrangements will certainly provide a new perspective for a fresh listen to the first album.

For an encore Torrini has an acoustic guitar helped over her head, and she encourages everyone to sing along to her Lenny Kravitz/Beatles segue, before finishing the set with a rambunctious rendition of Heard it All Before. It has been another wonderful and uplifting evening of entertainment from the Icelandic angel.

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