Emiliana Torrini – St George’s Church – 27th June 2014

Having lived for 11 years in Brighton, a city she still has very strong links with, the Italo-Icelandic singer songwriter prepped for her Glastonbury performance on the Avalon stage, with an occasionally spellbinding performance with what was in effect a 'greatest hits' show. Not that she has had many hits per se, but Torrini has written enough great songs to make that so, including writing Kylie Minogue's Slow hit, a song she doesn't sing live. And with a tear in her eye (she was genuinely ecstatic about being in Brighton, a place she very much loves), she enchanted a large extended family of friends and fans, who in turn displayed a lot of love for this very soulful singer songwriter, a performer who ever-so-subtely can't help but wear her heart on her sleeve.

Resplendent in red, and largely featuring songs from her last three albums; Fisherman's Woman, Me and Armini and last years 'comeback' Tookah, Torrini alternated between tender, acoustic numbers, to the more electronic sounds of songs such as the upbeat Jungle Drums and the lazy ska slink Me and Armini, her beguiling voice often hitting the sweet spot within the suitably reverential confines of the church venue.

She's not been in the spotlight much these last few years, having spent the last four years carrying and rearing her first child, and now gigs rarely, and so there was a need for an extended soundcheck with her six piece band – that included a number of Brighton musicians – in order to get up to speed. There's nothing like playing, in the rehearsal room or on stage, to get in the zone, and the show suffered a little from a lack of stage time, a little flat here and there with the band and singer sometime struggling to get to grips with the pace and nuances of some of the songs. Moreover, in the past, she has often played with a very basic three piece acoustic set-up, and in those situations, without a larger band to shield behind, she could shine very brightly, able to turn in utterly beguiling performances through her force of character alone. With those stripped back songs here – some of the most exquisite laments and ballads of recent years – she does entrance, on numbers such a Birds and and Sunny Road, and the equally melancholic Autumn Sun, one of the highlights of her Tookah album.

Never afraid to sing openly about people she knows – such as on Tookah's Elizabet (about her Auntie) – and nervously yet humorously engaging with the audience throughout – an important factor in her popularity – Torrini is tentatively easing back on to the live stage, a place where her endearing and friendly personality really comes through.
Jeff Hemmings