Emily Barker at the Borderline
With its brightly coloured horn heads decorating the wall, and it’s clean surroundings, it is no surprise that the Borderline is one of the hippest London spots in the heart of Soho.
Emily Barker, from Western Australia, is Wednesday night’s performer. With her band of multi-instrumentalists, she greets the expectant audience and wastes no time in getting into the swing of things, starting the set with Dear River from her 2013 album of the same name. Essentially a country song, (a genre that this artist revels in), it is a common enough cheery melody, with undercurrents of melancholia. Tomorrow Be Now, taken from the newest record, Sweet Kind of Blue, is a jaunty number, and her vocals perfectly fit this style, accompanied by a gentle drumbeat and sweet electric guitar. Sister Goodbye has Southern tones, inspired by the recording experience in Memphis, USA, transforming into a melancholic melody, Barker’s vocals untethered and free. Tonight’s sound design is at an ideal, perfectly balanced, producing an understated yet powerful set where the singer’s vocals, accompanied by the instruments, complement each other. Quite the natural live performer, she creates a good rapport with the audience, unabashed and appreciative of everyone’s attendance on this November night.
Hold On, sung in a duet with band mate Pete Drinkwater, is a slow chilled groove, his vocals adding a gentle quality to her higher pitched choruses. In keeping with the bluesy down-tempo theme, Blood Moon follows, a cool shadowy track, showing that Barker sounds as good as legends like Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris. If We Get to Dance is an upbeat bright tune, which the songwriter describes as the “funkiest almost disco pop song of the record”, proving that she shines in whichever form she sings in. Little Deaths, from 2009’s The Toerag Sessions, is brooding, similar to classic Irish folks tunes, with big sounds emanating from the giant double bass. One of the highlight’s of this captivating set is the theme song from Wallander, Nostalgia, beautiful in its lamenting. The tone then picks up again with Ghost Narrative, Barker’s harmonica skills clear. More! throws 60s pop into the mix, a hark back to the sounds of such acts as The Supremes.
The main highlight of tonight is undoubtedly Baker’s a capella rendition of Precious Memories, hymn-like in its enchantment. Her voice is perfectly measured and vocalised, backed only by the clicking of her fingers; it is truly an awe-inspiring and shiver-inducing piece.
Though Barker’s songs themselves are typical in the genres of country folk and Americana, her performance as a singer and multi-instrumentalist makes for a truly special live gig, filling the Borderline with some Australian warmth on this cold wintry evening.
Photos: Yufan Wang
For further information and future events visit the Emily Barker website here.
Watch the video for Sweet Kind of Blue here: