Gig Review by John Murphy with Photography by Gunnar Mallon

Emmy the Great singing at Leadmill in Sheffield

It’s been, unbelievably, 10 whole years since Emma-Lee Moss rechristened herself Emmy The Great and embarked on a career that’s produced three studio albums, a soundtrack to the film Austenland and a number of collaborations.

Krissy of O Karima singing at Leadmill, Sheffield

It’s that collaborative effort that really sticks out at tonight’s show at the Leadmill – the first support act O Karmina also acts as Moss’ keyboardist and choreographer, and opens the evening with her stately piano ballads. It’s a sound that works well with her voice, and a cover of Bat For Lashes’ Laura was greeted with appreciative applause. She’s not recorded many songs just yet, but O Karmina is certainly a name to watch out for.

Krissy of O Karima singing at Leadmill, SheffieldCharles Watson of CYTA on stage at Leadmill in Sheffield

Another band who haven’t recorded any songs yet is the second support act of the evening, CYTA. However, the lead singer of this particular band is rather better known, as it’s Charles Watson of Slow Club. This tour is the first chance that Watson’s had to debut some solo material that’s he’s been writing outside of Slow Club – while the 5 songs or so played tonight weren’t a million miles removed from his other band, there was a gorgeously ghostly quality to Voices Carry Thru The Mist, and You’ve Got A Way Of Leaving already sounds like a classic. If Slow Club are to take a break next year, then CYTA will go some way to plugging the gap.

Charles Watson of CYTA singing at Leadmill in Sheffield

After a slightly hesitant start where Moss realised her guitar wasn’t plugged in properly, she launched into a solo performance of early B-side The Hypnotist’s Son. It’s a brave choice to open a set, but lines like “every time I think of you, have to go to the toilet, can’t tell if this is love or a stomach disorder” are guaranteed to grab the attention.

Emmy the Great and Charles Watson on stage together at Leadmill in Sheffield

After this opener, the rest of the band (including O Karmina, Watson and Slow Club’s drummer Avvon Chambers) appear – the set is mainly focused on this year’s album Second Love with tracks like Part Of Me, Constantly and Social Halo (the latter introduced with a very funny story from Moss about Hong Kong’s Soho district, and partly sung in Chinese) all sounding absolutely sumptuous. Moss is an impossibly engaging personality on stage, with all manner of self-deprecating jokes and stories, even asking the front row to help her out if she forgot the lyrics to early song City Song.

Emmy the Great singing emotional songs at Leadmill in Sheffield

There’s also an unexpected cover version of The Cranberries’ Dreams (again, sung in Cantonese), but the highlight of the evening comes towards the end of the set – as a tribute to the late Leonard Cohen, the houselights go up, lyric sheets are passed around, and the whole Leadmill sings along with the Cohen classic Anthem. The sound of a room full of people singing “there’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in” feels like one of the few moments of optimism in 2016.

Charles Watson and Emmy the Great on stage together at Leadmill in Sheffield

The surprises don’t end there though – after a welcome rendition of We Almost Had A Baby during the encore, the set closes with Paper Forest, the highpoint of Moss’ second album Virtue: accompanied by a volunteer from the front row who performed the entirety of the song’s lyrics by sign language – a fittingly inspiring end to one of the most entertaining evenings of the year.

Emmy the Great with band performing at Leadmill in Sheffield

Emmy the Great looking between songs at Leadmill in Sheffield

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