After a few years out of the flashing bulbs of fame, Emeli Sandé is back, and in a big way. Sandé originally shot to fame way back in 2011 with her album Our Version of Events, which spent 10 non-consecutive weeks at No.1 in the charts. Now she’s returned to tour her new album Long Live the Angels, released in November last year.
It lies testament to the amount of respect she still commands that the venue is absolutely packed to the rafters tonight; so much so to the point that it takes a good amount of vigorous head bobbing and tip-toe standing to actually catch a glimpse of her. This, however, for once doesn’t matter too much: her voice kind of does the talking. Opening with dreamy new album track Selah, it soon becomes clear why she’s enjoyed the amount of commercial success she’s received. Her voice is absolute stunning and echoes around the high ceilings of Leeds O2 Academy beautifully.
Next up is Heaven, her breakthrough single from 2011, in which again, her vocal ability truly shines through. Her soprano vocal range is shown off to its full potential. In each song, Sandé commands the stage, perfectly blending with her live band, and backing singers. In each break, she takes the time to introduce the next song and even give a little back story about what the song means to her, and why she wrote it.
There’s a lovely peaceful atmosphere throughout the academy which almost gives the impression you’re listening to some lounge music- with the only exception of a brilliant vocal which captures your attention with every note. The only downside from the gig to be noted is that some slightly inebriated crowd members tend to continue their conversations a little too loudly during less popular numbers, but thankfully this doesn’t completely shatter the aura.
Recent single Hurts is a nice upbeat break from the quiet lull, with Sandé’s passion really coming through as she screams the lyrics from a clearly emotive place inside her. This is only a momentary break from the calm as See Beneath Your Beautiful (originally made famous as a duet between herself and rapper Labyrinth), accompanied tonight by a member of her band. The song is a lovely nostalgic throwback, and sounds just as good as when it was released back in 2012.
Sandé takes to the piano for Clown, which is undoubtedly the highlight of the set vocally. The adoring crowd sing back the emotional lyrics in their droves, as she smiles back knowingly. Then the familiar drum beat of Next To Me begins, and the crowd are the loudest they’ve been all night, singing every word back to a grinning Emeli Sandé.
Sandé announces the last song of the set will be Read All About It. Before the song begins, she takes a moment to address to terror attack which occurred in Westminster earlier on in the day, and dedicates her performance to the victims and their families. The song takes on a whole new meaning, and strikes an emotional chord with the adoring crowd. Final bows, and the balcony seating section immediately rise out of their seats for a well-deserved standing ovation. This is what music is all about – a group of people in a room all feeling the same elated emotions at once. As the night ends, there’s almost a feeling that you’ve learned something, and been enlightened. It’s like Emeli Sandé was the preacher tonight, and boy, did she take us to church.