May 15, 2018
“We take cash and card and bribes and advice”
Award winning Americana singer-songwriter Emily Barker is nothing if not versatile. Just days before supporting Mary Chapin Carpenter at the sedate Barbican Hall, she played to a crowd of 3,500 raucous punk rock fans at Frank Turner’s Lost Evenings festival at The Roundhouse. There was certainly not as much neon hair and tattoos in the Barbican audience! Nevertheless, Barker’s performance fit naturally in each disparate environment.
Roaming the stage (“Look out front row, I’m going rogue with the microphone!”) and joking through the set were clues that she’d been energised by the nostalgic experience of supporting Turner again. Last year, she wrote for The Guardian about what she’d learned about performance from touring with him a decade ago. (Coincidentally, that article was published the day she headlined King’s Place, another hushed venue that rivals Barbican for sound fidelity…come for the photos, stay for the obscure Emily Barker facts!)
There was nowhere to hide with Barbican’s crisp acoustics so it was lucky that Barker’s voice was more than up to the challenge. An extended vulnerable note in Over My Shoulder was absolutely on point as it reverberated around the hall.
She jokingly acknowledged her pair of TV thriller theme tunes – Nostalgia from Wallander and Pause from The Shadow Line – by introducing the next song as having absolutely “nothing to do with fighting crime in the south of Sweden. To be fair, neither do the theme songs themselves. The original version of Nostalgia – the version that Barker plays live – is about Melbourne, Australia. It’s likely Barker’s most well-known song, although it’s worth discovering the haunting beauty of Pause too.
Moving on to newer material, Sister Goodbye really showcased the power of Barker’s voice. The new live arrangement of More! foregrounded the talents of her duet partner, Lukas Drinkwater, who had stepped away from the double bass and electric bass to perform what Barker called “the most exposed guitar solo in the world.”
The Barbican set was weighted to Barker’s pure ballads while the Roundhouse set was built around stompers. Fittingly, Disappear made the cut both nights; it’s a pure stomper.
Barker was thrilled to announce a full band headline show at The Lexington in October. That venue is far grungier Barbican crowd are accustomed to, but the intrepid ones that follow Barker’s stunning voice and musicianship will not be disappointed.
While Mary Chapin Carpenter’s headline set at Barbican was undoubtedly flawless, the call of distortion and rumbling bass was too strong to resist. It turned out that the time it took to get to Putney was *exactly* the time between the end of Barker’s support slot and the start of William The Conqueror’s headline set at The Half Moon. What’s a girl to do? Run, that’s what!
Head to The Lexington’s website for more information about Barker’s October 28 show and to buy tickets.
In the meantime, treat yourself to Barker’s luscious album, Sweet Kind of Blue, if you haven’t already. Here’s why you need it.
When he’s not rounding out Emily Barker’s sound or underpinning several other bands and solo projects, Jacob Drinkwater performs in the eerie alt-folk duo Jacob & Drinkwater. Head to jacobanddrinkwater.com for their September tour dates.
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