Emeli Sande showed why she has sales to rival Adele in her native UK by delivering a breathtaking 14-song set at Club Nokia in Los Angeles on Saturday night (August 10). New artists often struggle to pull together an interesting setlist but the prolific Scottish diva already has enough stellar material for a greatest hits tour. In fact, all but four of the tracks she brilliantly belted out have been hits in one territory or another — a testament to the budding superstar’s songwriting ability and raw talent.
When you have goosebump-inducing vocal ability and a growing canon of heartfelt ballads, there’s no need for bells and whistles. As such, the Emeli Sande live experience is fairly rudimentary. It’s just a woman with a gigantic blond quiff, some instruments and a smattering of musicians. That might change when the Scot returns to America for a headlining tour in October but hopefully not too much because her no-fuss approach is very refreshing. Sande just moved from song to song, occasionally stopping to say thank you or give a short anecdote. But mostly she focused on proving that she has one of the best voices in the business.
Opening with brooding club anthem “Daddy” was an interesting choice. Emeli transformed the Our Version Of Events highlight into an almost choral ballad — albeit with the same sinister undertone. Performed in near darkness, it was an eerie yet auspicious start to the night. Things lightened up — literally — when the 26-year-old sang breakthrough hit “Heaven”. The synths came as a relief as the tune remains as catchy as the day it was released way back in 2011. Regardless of its vintage, this still sounds like a wise future single choice in the US.
“Where I Sleep” and “Breaking The Law”, while beautifully performed, were overshadowed by the songs that followed. It was great to hear Rudimental collaboration “Free” in its original, stripped back form and the diva’s acoustic rendition of “Suitcase” was an absolute highlight. Emeli is at her most powerful when making an emotional connection and that one really hits hard. As does the ruthlessly romantic “My Kind Of Love” for the completely opposite reason. Fingers crossed this takes off on radio. However, it definitely sounds more engaging live than on record.
It’s hard to think of superior triple shot of expert balladry than “Clown”, “Beneath Your Beautiful” and “Read All About It”. All three tracks exploded internationally and there’s no reason they can’t do the same here, particularly the instantly hummable Labrinth duet. A couple of Naughty Boy collaborations (“Lifted” and “Wonder”) raised the tempo but don’t quite have the same universal appeal as the vocalist’s solo work. Like the pitifully hopeful “Maybe” or electric gospel-pop of US top 30 hit “Next To Me”, which the diva sweetly dedicated to her husband Adam. All in all, it’s fair to say that Sande is very much the real deal.
Emeli Sande’s Club Nokia Setlist
Where I Sleep
Breaking The Law
My Kind Of Love
Beneath Your Beautiful
Read All About It
Next To Me
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