Caro Emerald and band stopped off at the Usher Hall Edinburgh for the second of only two Scottish dates (Glasgow the night before) in their current tour and not surprisingly played to a packed venue of people of all ages (and this is a 2,000 plus capacity venue).
Dutch born Caro Emerald (aka Caroline Esmeralda van der Leeuw) is without doubt one of the most distinctive voices and performers of her generation, and her blend of musical styles encapsulates salsa, mambo, jazz, swing and anything else that Caro and the band want to play. This musical fluidity of different music and styles performed live and with apparently effortless ease hid for a moment just how good Caro and this band are. The apparent spontaneity of the music is an illusion as this is music that does not allow for mistakes on stage. These are songs of complex musical structures and timings and you need a very well-rehearsed and very tight band of exceptional musical talents to not only never be a beat out with one another, but to make everything look so smooth and fluid. You also need an exceptional singer who can not only play with these different styles vocally, but one who can keep in time and phrasing with the ever changing modulations and shifting keys of the music (often within one song). Caro Emerald is a very exceptional singer who can not only do all of this, but engage effortlessly with her audience at all times.
There is something timeless about the music of Caro Emerald and the music over the years is very much a creative team effort with Dutch songwriter/producer David Schreurs, Canadian songwriter Vincent Degiorgio and Dutch producer Jan van Wieringen adding much to the album that really put Caro Emerald on the musical mass market stage, “Deleted Scenes from the Cutting Room Floor”. Caro Emerald has built a solid reputation for her live performances, and the individual members of the band are obviously an integral part of that success story too. Collectively we are given infectious dance music and classic jazz that could effortlessly belong in the 1950s with Louis Prima on stage alongside the band.
This tour is putting on a big production. Light, sound and on-screen graphics are as much part of the show as the music. Everything here is timed to the the second, and these songs are not throw-away pop lyrics, but songs of true musical and lyrical creativity, very much taking their inspiration from great songwriters of yesterday like Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen in the USA and many great European songwriters of the past. Unfortunately, Caro’s wonderful version of Jacque Brel’s “Ne Me Quitte Pas” was not in tonight’s set, but there were many Caro Emerald Classics including “Liquid Lunch”, “A Night Like This” and “Back It Up”. One of the highlights of the evening though, nothing but Caro Emerald’s vocals backed by Wieger Hoogendorp on acoustic guitar on the timeless “Close To Me”.
Caro Emerald and the band were very much bringing a “party atmosphere” to this show, so don’t expect to be sitting in your seat all evening if you plan catching up with them at a later date.
Of course, some newer material in the set too including “Tahitian Skies” from the “Emerald Island” EP (Guy Chambers writing on this one too) and the new “Wake Up In Rome”. These are all songs of timeless quality, and music needs songwriters and performers of this quality to always be there to not only make their own music, but to leave something of style and beauty for the next generation to re-discover. Timeless sounds and songwriting are a hallmark of everything here, but there is also a modern woman’s edge to the lyrics of many of these songs; these are not the victim “torch songs” of earlier decades.
Opening tonight’s show for Caro was Dutch singer/songwriter Loren Nine. Lauren, with only her vocals and her keyboard with her songs of loss and melancholy was probably about as far away as you can get from the big sounds and party atmosphere of Caro Emerald, but for some reason the contrasting music and styles worked well. And her debut single “Chasing Sharks” has just been released. Lauren did seem at times a bit apprehensive when faced with a venue the size of the Usher Hall, but touring with Caro Emerald and the band is going to be a huge learning curve in confidence building and how to present a show package to an audience. It is often forgotten that that side of the music business is a skill in itself that you learn over time. Loren Nine is an interesting lyricist, so I will be keeping a watch on this singer for more songs in the years to come.
Review by Tom King