7/28/15 – Brighton Music Hall

Shortly after opener Jaime Woods finished her set she hopped back onstage – not for an encore (though it would have been well-received) but instead, as a back-up singer for headliner Emily King.

King joined her bandmates onstage in a flaming red suit, perhaps a visual reminder that she now had the spotlight. It was an outfit that screamed for attention, but it matched her dramatic dance moves (including Michael Jackson-style spins) and the exaggerated poses that were paired with her songs. Often, it was over-the-top theatrical, but perhaps this was a style honed during the years on the J Records label, opening for acts like John Legend, Alicia Keys, and Sara Bareilles.  Surely stadium-sized audiences appreciate overemphasized gestures (it’s hard to see when you’re so far up in the stands!), but in Brighton Music Hall it felt excessive.

The beginning of the night was packed with back-to-back upbeat tracks like “Good Friend” and “Sleepwalker,” and the crowd couldn’t help but dance. Yet, despite the roaring cheers that welcomed King to the stage, the audience seemed more keen to sing along when Jaime Woods was onstage. Woods had masterfully created a feeling of crowd unity; when she cued the audience to clap, they did. When she split the crowd up to sing in a four-part round, they happily sang with their neighbors.

But when King attempted to continue that same sense of togetherness, it usually didn’t work. Emily King’s more popular numbers, like “The Animals” and “Radio,” resulted in a confused crowd, and failed clap-alongs. Even a cover of The Beatles – what should have been a simple sing-along – left the crowd unsure of which lines of “Help” to sing.

That’s not to say the audience didn’t love them. As the band moved to a crowd favorite King teased us – “You know this one? You sure? Will you help me sing this one?” – before the band broke out into the familiar chorus of “Distance.”

This time, the crowd did sing along, which caused the drummer to break out into a big goofy grin. The energy in the room (or, the heat) moved King to strip off her red suit jacket. Meanwhile, the bassist continued to make strange Mr. Bean-like expressions, his face screwed up in concentration.

“Shout out to my mother, I wrote this song about her,” King called out. She hugged her acoustic guitar close and beat out rhythms to a song that began solo before the others joined in. There was a twinkling of piano, and somehow it felt with each singing of the chorus more and more voices were added, even though the number of band members onstage stayed the same. “Like a drop of rain, falling through a passing wind,” they sang on “Down,” their voices layered in harmony.

During “No More Room,” King finally introduced the band: “I got some good friends in the night” she sang, and each improvised solos that earned loud cheers. The drummer’s wide grin returned as he beat out complex rhythms in a playful attempt to trip up the bassist (similar to Shakey Graves’ “Stump The Drummer” game) and Woods sang out the chorus, which fluttered and stretched across an impressively wide vocal range.

Perhaps King should have done the intros earlier, or perhaps just listened to the crowd – she had prompted the band to continue repeating the chorus as the crowd clapped along – the high level of crowd energy could have lasted throughout the whole night.

When the encore began, crowd members (probably some of the many Berklee students Jaime Woods shouted out earlier) began singing hit song “Georgia” to each other before King could even begin. What the band had done by prolonging “No More Room” would have worked again here, but they didn’t take their opportunity to respond to the crowd’s howls and enthusiastic response. Nevertheless, “Georgia” went down smooth, and the band exited to a thundering round of applause.

Flashy Soul and a Flaming Red Suit: Emily King
Pros
  • Worked in solos really well
  • Talented band
Cons
  • Sometimes too dramatic
  • Inattention to crowd energy
7.9Overall Score

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