Friday, 12 March 2010

Emilie Autumn in London

Emilie Autumn Opheliac
Farringdon for an early evening pizza and then on to the improbable shopping mall in Islington where the O2 Academy was hosting Emilie Autumn. It wasn't hard to spot the venue because of the large quantity of Victorian and gothic people standing in a well-behaved line outside. We decided it was better to head for the nearby pub and wait until the doors had opened for what would anyway be a standing gig.

Sure enough, a rich and hoppy ale later, we returned to an almost empty queue, somehow missing the separate entrance for 'O2 customers' which would have saved us all of five minutes but meant we missed the spectacle of those around us applying small hearts to their faces using various cosmetics.

There's a challenge for the style of production of someone like Emilie Autumn. An intelligent and talented writer and performer, with a strong eye for the theatre of a show, there must be some compromise to taking such an endeavour on the road. The premise of the show is a women's lunatic asylum and much of the writing in the songs is about the situation and the various tragedies as women were consigned to these places in Victorian times.

The show, however, takes on a bright and somewhat pink look at the situation, with jagged lyrics sung with a poppy twist. It is deliberate, of course, and provides an entertainment spectacle which probably has some parallels with the emotional dilemmas of the Victorian tours of the asylums.

So where's the performance compromises? Simply that this is a show with a major star outlook but being produced for what one assumes is a relatively small budget. The most noticeable adjustment is the lack of a full band, which makes some of the numbers run on backing tracks rather than performance. Quite honestly, there's many mainstream performers that do this anyway, we've all spotted miming on the biggest shows and some pop artists struggle away from the studio.

I'll still take this show as a big-hearted attempt to drive a full-on theatrical style experience. Good staging, a small cast of friends providing burlesque and circus style antics alongside the songs. It didn't all work and could probably have been condensed in length (around two and a half hours of non-stop performance) but I'll still take away the spirit from it as a strong piece of entertainment, if not a 'music gig' in the conventional sense.

Emilie Autumn is interesting in that there are probably various directions she can take her career and talent. Whilst relatively niche and unknown to mainstream, it was interesting to see a broad and diverse group of followers, from full-on fans in costumes, to burly rockers making the sign of the horns and people waving old school cigarette lighter flames in salute to almost Hendrix style violin solos.

Not a photographic evening for me, but there's an excellent set from the opening part of the gig by Taya Uddin posted in flickr.

I'll settle for this little poem here from Emilie.

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