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Emma Dean: Live Review

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WARNING: This review may contain elements of cabaret & strong traces of catchy melodies (to paraphrase the introduction).

As featured on episode 8 of Insomnia Radio: Australia, Erk attended the Sydney launch of Emma Dean’s new album Dr Dream And The Imaginary Pop-Cabaret. Erk’s review of the album was the first known review in the known universe and Saturday 20 November 2010 was the first known time in Erk’s universe that he had been to a cabaret show of any description.

Quite simply, Emma Dean is a entertainment machine. She sings (rather well with a dynamic range), plays the keys (albeit at times overshadowed by everything else going on around her) and performs with a full stage of performers including her 3 imaginary friends. The stage at The Raval in Sydney is not the biggest so it was crowded with Emma (with mic stand & keyboard), her 3 imaginary friends & her drummer (with full drum kit) all competing for room. If everyone had of stayed where they were, it would not have been a big hassle. However, one simply does not get onto stage at this show and expect to remain nailed to the one spot. That is impossible.

During Erk’s initial album review, he said:

“The music is a lot different to what I am used to. If you listen at one level, you could be excused for thinking that the music is merely up-vibe and interesting, almost as if you are at a circus or a cabaret show. In my case, it sounds like what I imagine a cabaret show to be like through watching TV. It could be argued that you only get half the effect by only listening to the music. To get the full effect, take a close listen to the music. If you are not fortunate enough to be in Emma Dean’s audience, sit back and imagine what it would be like. When you do listen very closely to the words, you may be surprised at what you are actually listening to.”

Having now seen the show, it now gives some new perspective that a listener might not get if they only listened to the music. There was so much to focus on during the show. There was the musical side to the performance. Needless to say, the song Sincerely Fearful was a highlight. The musical side of the performance was very strong. Some people may be happy merely listening to the music without the visuals. The music is easy to listen to live and was not remarkably different to how it sounded on the album with the exception of some added sound effects and samples of Emma singing. What makes this show different, exciting and breathtaking is the performance element. Albeit that Erk can only judge based on seeing one show (so far), the performances by everyone on stage were outstanding and at times quite physical. Working in a confined space might not have been ideal – it would be interesting to see the show on a larger stage. To be able to achieve the high standard of dance & choreography that was displayed must have taken a lot of work and practice.  It is hard enough to either sing or play an instrument or dance or perform – try combining all of those elements at once!

The crowd reaction was fantastic. The sell out crowd barely had time to breath between songs. As soon as one song had finished, the next one had started. There was no inane chitchat between the songs as can happen at other gigs – the empathsis was on the entertainment and keeping the on-stage energy levels high throughout the whole set.  The venue was very intimate with many chairs, stools and lounges filled with people. Many more people (Erk included) were standing while others were sitting on the floor. No one seemed to care – they were all enjoying the show. The biggest shame about the show (apart from the fact that it ended) is that many people do not know about the talents of Emma Dean. The intimate surroundings were to her advantage but she does deserve to be more well known than what she is at the moment. You will need to keep both ears and eyes open for her – you will enjoy the journey inside her head! If you get the chance to see Emma live, go and do it. (If you do go to one of her shows, dress up in fancy dress. She likes that.) Otherwise, visit her website and see some videos and listen to the music. Either way, you will be glad you did, especially if you like this style of music!