REVIEW: Monday, 31 March 2014
Emma Stevens (Enchanted Live)
Earlier this week, I was privileged to see Emma Stevens and her band in her first ever headline concert sharing her lovely songs from her album “Enchanted”. It was such a coincidence I happened upon her music online only the previous weekend, then found out the next day she was performing live at The Portland Arms in Cambridge, a venue so close yet I’d never been before, at the corner between Victoria & Milton Road. She was supported beforehand by an up-and-coming Cambridge talent, fresh from his travels around Australia.
There was a really good turn-out and Emma gave a splendid performance. Her beautiful songs and generous spirit left everyone smiling. I had been drawn to her in the first place by her voice and thoughtful lyrics, so it was especially good to hear them brought alive by her presence. In the age of music reduced to a commodity, and the commodity reduced to digital data, there is a huge corresponding demand for a return to the experience. For some, this is the desire of “coming together” and “being there”, but even more than this for me I think is the lovely change to go back to music in its original being, and “being present”. There is however also added excitement in the creation of a memory, and this is what moves me in this blog to re-create it.
Opening with the song “Once”, Emma expresses cynicism at the Disney lie “you only need to find love once”, only then – in finding love – to feel she must re-affirm it. Her most moving song is no doubt “Sunflower”, in which she remembers some of the little things her mother taught her. It was especially good to hear this live. My favourite song from the album was her fairytale love song “A Place Called You”. (The album also has a very pretty fairytale look.) Other highlights included the popping “Riptide”, the chilled-out loving “Lazy” and the upbeat post-holiday “Hey Summer”. Overall her music captures that post-holiday mood of memory of good times in the past, moving through sad moments, upbeat & hopeful, open to love & light in the present & future.
Other memorable episodes of the night included (1) the band putting on sparkly hats for one of the songs, (2) a minor blip in which Emma thought her song “It’s Obvious” had obviously gone wrong when for the audience it seemed fine (reminding me of Jai-Jagdeesh’s advice “if you hit a wrong note smile and keep on singing”, but also this made me think how the difference between someone like Emma who loves what they do and the cold professional is the first will genuinely smile, learn from the mistake and come back stronger), and (3) when the bassist was picking up feedback of another song between sets, it seemed to be “Good Vibrations” (how serendipitous to be picking up good vibrations!). These were all like happy unveilings.
By a complete coincidence, this concert, the first of Emma’s “Enchanted Tour”, fell on the second anniversary of her mother passing away. This letting go from the tree of life leaves offspring, friends and relatives behind, who one day will also have to let go in their own way. And though this moment is a sad one, it is also in the imagination of a story that Emma’s sister wrote about the last leaf of autumn, a reaching for the stars in flight, a re-entry into the soil of existence, a new beginning. Without endings, there could be no beginnings. Accompanying the crunch and decay, new dawns await. We wish for Emma and her band that this be the beginning of a long and wonderful adventure on her journey of enchantment, and for many happy journeys to come. “Enchanted”, the name of her album, is an old word via French from Latin, from in-cantare meaning “to sing or cast a spell upon”. The magic therein is a blessing! May love light her way. And yours too!