Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Last time I saw Stealing Sheep was at the Cloud Sounds + Red Deer Xmas Party. Then they had just released ‘The Mountain Dogs’ EP on Red Deer Club; today it was announced they had signed to Heavenly Records. And the trio were glammed up like it was, well, Christmas – spangly dresses, head bands and velvet hot-pants.

Of course it’s the music that counts – and as well as a distinct growth in their musical confidence there’s also a darker, more atmospheric, even psychedelic quality to their folk-pop forays as evidenced on latest EP ‘I Am The Rain’. Sadly poor planning meant I only caught the second half of their thirty minute set but it was enough to confirm Heavenly have made a wise move following the group’s support by micro-indies like Red Deer Club.

Emmy The Great has also moved on since simpler one-foot-in-the-anti-folk camp days. If first album "First Love" had a DIY collage feel to the cover artwork, this year’s "Virtue" has a sequence of sumptuous mise-en-scène photography of Ms Moss with props and allusions drawn from the album – very classy and pointing to the intricacy and layered approach to the music. This was repeated tonight with a four piece band (guitar, bass, keys and drums) that gave a warm, shimmering backing to a mixture of old and new songs.

The gig started with an expressionless solo rendition of ‘Eastern Maria’ before Emmy was joined by band for a first half of largely new songs. The band remained very much in the gloom and background, the only spotlight was on Emmy The Great, and despite her apparent impassivity whilst singing, it was clear who was the star of the show here. It was a muted crowd reception for this sold out show I thought, even a name-check of Manchester as her second home barely raised a cheer. I’ll give everyone the benefit of the doubt and say they were respectfully rapt rather than dead (at least there was no-one chatting which does suggest the former).

As set progressed Emmy loosened up between songs dedicating ‘MIA’ “despite it being about a car crash” to Stealing Sheep and a cover of Weezer’s ‘Island in the Sun’ to the band’s former bassist Mikey Welsh who had died two days earlier. Whilst singing, she occasionally glanced outwards and upwards to individual crowd members, and when freed from playing guitar she would hold her arms out in front of the microphone almost beckoning the listener in. But what really held the attention was her soft-strong, magical voice and these intensely personal songs. The first encore was a solo ‘Canopies and Grapes’ which showed flashes of those anti-folk leanings but overall this was confirmation of Emmy The Great’s new stage of ‘greatness’ and alluring maturity; and an ability to stop hearts and mouths with captivating, emotional performances such as ‘Trellick Tower’. A sublime evening.

The Set List:
The solo encore was 'Canopies and Grapes'

No comments: