Emmy the Great @ Deaf Institute, Manchester, 4 Jun

Emmy the Great marks ten years of her debut album with a charmingly intimate show

Live Review by Joe Goggins | 12 Jun 2019
  • Emmy the Great @ The Deaf Institute, 23 Jan

There’s the sense of a homecoming tonight as Emmy the Great brings her debut full-length to Manchester. Emma-Lee Moss is touring First Love up and down the country to mark its tenth anniversary, but perhaps this is as close as she’ll get to the geographical roots of the album. "Does everybody here know Bernie?" she asks of the crowd, in reference to Bernie Phillips, a legendary local figure who’s been putting up travelling musicians at her home in south Manchester for longer than anybody can remember. "I stayed at her house, and I got to use the same soap as Joanna Newsom."

You can understand why this would be especially thrilling to somebody as referential as ETG; First Love is scored through with nods to her heroes, from MIA, which endearingly agonises over the correct pronunciation of her fellow Londoner’s stage name, to the record’s title track, which is at pains to point out that the Hallelujah it mentions is 'the original Leonard Cohen version'. Meanwhile, as if to mark the passage of time and change in climate, Woody Allen’s name is swapped out for Diane Keaton’s during Canopies and Drapes.

This is a solo tour – something that Moss, still a new mum, promised herself she’d do after lugging a baby and a tonne of gear around the world at the back end of promotion for Second Love, her most recent album and one that was fascinated with the tech age. First Love’s songs feel better for it, too; there’s a sparseness to the likes of On Museum Island and City Song that lends them some additional emotional heft. Plus, the intimacy allows her to reel off anecdotes about the LP’s recording process; it was cut at a remote Lancashire studio near Burnley.

"Did you know that Neil Young played on the album? Yeah, and his brother. Neil and Richard Young from Colne." Between that, a shooting in the street, and tales of a former Blue member who’d had the studio before Moss and her band (and spent more time marking off his conquests in the tabloids than he did making music), it feels refreshing and fitting that the ten-year birthday of such a confessional album should involve the audience being able to see behind the curtain like this.