Emmy The Great brought her first album 10 year anniversary celebration to Phase One, Getintothis’ Peter Goodbody was there for the multi talented line up.
Emmy The Great is not exactly prolific. In 10 years there have only been three albums.
Although, to be fair her CV also includes a long list of collaborations with others, most notably Ash and a spell writing songs for a stage adaptation of Pride and Prejudice to reference just a couple.
She also writes extensively about music and literature for The Guardian under her real name Emma-Lee Moss. So, perhaps the relatively modest catalogue of solo music is understandable.
This tour is a recognition of the double figure anniversary of the release of her first album First Love and the fact it is now available on vinyl for the first time. How things have changed since the album’s original release in 2009.
Support on the tour comes in the form of Bishi Bhattacharya a Briton of Bengali heritage, who is usually known by just her first name. She too has a rich CV, including singer / song writer, sitar player, production and DJ.
She’s also the founder of WITCiH – The Women in Technology Creative Industries Hub, a platform to increase the visibility of women and non-binary artists at the intersection of music, creative technology and STEM disciplines. She regularly performs with her mother, Susmita Bhattacharya, a well known classical Indian singer, should you move in such circles.
Bishi looks the part. Her sculpted hair has a shock of white curling around the front.
She layers vocals and synth tracks to give the illusion there’s more than just her on stage. Add in the sitar and we have an effective eastern sounding dance mash up.
Bishi tells us these are mostly songs from a forthcoming album, Let My Country Awake, inspired by an essay collection called The Good Immigrant. Given her background, these are obviously significant topics.
The combination of the sitar and the synth beats makes a distinctive sound and is the sort of cross over that we would imagine reflects Bishi’s identity. Not capable of being put in a pigeonhole. Just being her. And all the richer for that.
So there’s no doubt about the pedigree on offer tonight. And with the moniker Emmy The Great, there’s quite a bit to live up to.
In a memorable first for our gig going experience, she is on stage a good 15 minutes before the posted time. “Congratulations, Liverpool”. We like her already.
It’s just her on stage. With an impressive array of guitars and keyboards that all see an outing at various points during the evening. In a way, this seems overkill because the point about her work is less the music and more the words.
Sometimes the brutality of the lyrics belies the beauty of the music. She can be harsh. Take just one example from 24:
“They say that one man is the accident the other is the
Hand that stops the blood
And I am looking for the other one I’m looking for the
Blade to make the cut
Oh if one man is the accident I’m looking for a hand to
Stop the blood”
Her following is loyal. “I’ve already seen you on this tour” she says to one of our number. “Where was it?” “Glasgow” comes the response. There’s a Canadian in the room, too. Although we suspect she didn’t come here just for this gig alone.
We Almost Had A Baby is dedicated to a friend in the audience who had recently done just that. “RIP our vaginas” empathises Emmy, who is also a new mother.
Title track, First Love – the tribute to Leonard Cohen – doesn’t get played by the BBC because it had the word “piss” in it. Although she did manage to sneak the song onto the airwaves in a live session once.
Super gig with @emmy_the_great and Bishi was boss too. Warm friendly atmosphere and everyone listened.
— Peter Gibbons (@petergibbons481) June 3, 2019
There’s a good engagement going on with the audience. It couldn’t quite be described as a conversation, because it’s mostly one sided. And we wouldn’t normally judge a band by the quality of their in between song chat, but this is Emmy making this as inclusive as she can.
As if to prove the point:, there is an huge crash as someone drops a pint and the glass shatters all over the floor. “Whose was that? Go and get another drink. I will wait until you get back from the bar.“ And she does.
The album has been played in full tonight and the overwhelming impression we have is that Emmy The Great is a person who really uses words first, with the music a vehicle on which they are carried.
A pretty smart vehicle, though.
Images by Getintothis’ Peter Goodbody