Dutch jazz-pop singer Caro Emerald came to the Bournemouth International Centre (BIC) on October 15th, having recommenced the UK Arena tour she previously postponed following her pregnancy, and the birth of her daughter in March. Despite the delay, every seat was filled for the sold out show, that followed the European success of her first album, and its UK Number 1 follow up The Shocking Miss Emerald.
Directly on the seafront, the cavernous BIC was filled to bursting with an eclectic audience comprising eager fans of every age, mingling drink in hand at the many bars in the venue. Opening act Kris Berry performed a selection of reggae inspired jazz; the mixing of influences similar in concept to Emerald’s blended style that draws on both Latin salsa rhythms and 1950’s big band jazz. In particular ‘Love Trip’, with its cheerful tone and strong 60’s swing influences, was a joy to listen to and certainly set the mood for Emerald’s entrance.
And what an entrance it was – emerging behind a giant translucent screen and backlit such that her silhouette towered over the audience. This staging fit well with the cinematic, James Bond-esque tones of the night’s opening song ‘I Belong To You’, however Emerald’s voice was disappointingly flat. Requiring a fully committed opening belt, she instead seemed almost hesitant. This persisted into the next song also, but from then on out any fears regarding her talent or performance skills should have been banished.
Emerald is a truly gifted performer. Her command of the audience in the expansive arena made was such that you felt as if you were ten foot from her, looking up from a table at a cabaret. Her vocals growing stronger, smoother and more confident as the night continued, she effortlessly moved from lighter, more upbeat swing to smoother jazz. This was perhaps most clearly shown in the transition from the energetic mood of ‘Stuck’ that demanded to be danced to, into an acoustic performance of the wholly different dark and intimate ‘Paris’.
The stage setting emulated this, with screens showing abstract light patterns which at a moment’s notice instead displayed smooth curls of smoke and, alongside a spotlight and red backlighting, instantly created a warm, sultry mood. She provided refreshing takes on songs from her two albums using the power of a live band to embody the particularly noteworthy ‘Completely’ with a jaunty vibe that would not have been out of place at an old fashioned bandstand. Receiving more time to shine, the band commanded the stage and performed lively instrumentals during Emerald’s two brief consume changes – her hair styled into a vintage undo, Emerald certainly looked the part as well.
After a brief but surprisingly riotous minute offstage, the foot-stamping and applause from the audience’s standing ovation called Emerald and the band back onstage for an encore. First she performed ‘Back It Up’, sectioning the audience and teaching each a short line from the song. Orchestrating like a conductor, Emerald proceeded to sing the final verses of the song acapella, layered over the voices of the audience which echoed to fill the arena – the atmosphere was electric. After, Emerald spoke briefly to the audience, giving her thanks for everyone’s love and support and explaining how much it means for her to be able to sing and live her dream. Explaining that it was the first song she ever performed as a young girl, and that it still represents her aspirations of a life filed with making and sharing music, Emerald performed a moving version of ‘Dream A Little Dream Of Me’ that collectively took the audience’s breath away.
‘An Evening With Caro Emerald’ was everything a gig should be. Caro Emerald crosses musical styles and genres that span continents and decades, and in doing so creates timeless music that is loved by both young and old. Moving from upbeat to low key and back again, Emerald provided amazing company and put on a show that reminded audience members of the simple joy of beautiful music, and the pleasure that comes from sharing in it.
‘An Evening With Caro Emerald’ continues to tour the UK until the 24th October 2014. Otherwise sold out, second hand tickets can be purchased here.