Emma Louise

We’re With You, Emma Louise @ The Hi-Fi, 25th October

I first saw Emma Louise perform at Woodford Folk Festival in 2010. As other bands were setting up, a small, blonde, pixie-esque girl sneaked on stage and politely asked to play a few songs between sound checks. Passers-by stopped and listened, enchanted, to Emma’s pure, strong, and bitterly honest voice. She’s come a long way since, but the magic remains.

With two largely-underground openers, the atmosphere at The Hi-Fi is characteristically low-key. Sleepy Tea, a Brisbane psych-pop 5-piece, wander onstage and start to play warm, dreamy, and surprisingly beautiful melodies, their vocals; sweet and emotional. Looking happily vacant, the band sway and swoon, while the audience (sadly) does not pay much attention.

Robbie Miller is next, and passionately pours out his heart through his acoustic guitar. Although clearly lyrically talented, his voice is a little too familiar, as if Vance Joy perhaps got there first. His long hair falls into his face; his songs are intimate and his eyes sincere. He thanks the noisy crowd and disappears.

Emma Louise comes on ten minutes early, looking very different from previous appearances. She seems older, cooler, with a rough ponytail and jeans, but somehow harder; melancholy, perhaps. She seems self-conscious when she talks to the audience but charms easily, commenting on how she forgot to write a setlist. She opens with an unknown song called West End Kid, just her and a guitar, and immediately shows her songwriting skills and delicate ear for melody. Her voice is beautifully pure and sweeps effortlessly over the high notes and dives deep into the low.

She plays several songs from her album, Vs Head Vs Heart, including Atlas Eyes, Cages, and Mirrors. Interestingly, she chooses the songs that feature the most electronic detail on the album, but performs them with simple acoustic guitar. It sounds a little empty, but her voice makes up for it, as those by the stage stare up in awe.

The thing is, when she starts to sing, she closes her eyes and you can see everything disappear around her. She’s gone, in another world; she’s perhaps the most honest performer I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to hide the certain sadness that surrounds her; her absolute insecurity although her talent and skill is obvious and her success is plain to see.

In between songs, she shares anecdotes, most of which seem brutally honest. She says that she sees the girl on the cover of her album — a shot from behind of a blonde, angelic girl with flowers creeping over her naked shoulder — and knows she’s not that girl anymore. She tells us this is her first gig in around a year, her first solo performance in even longer, and she’s nervous. She says that once, during a bad time, she legitimately considered moving to King Island, a tiny place near Tasmania with ‘happy sheep’. She performs a song written about this near-miss (called Island) and it’s mesmerising. After 40 minutes, she quietly thanks the audience and heads offstage.

We’re with you, Emma Louise.

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