Live review: EMA at Islington’s The Garage

EMA at Islington's The Garage. Photo credit: @substandardnerd

EMA at Islington's The Garage. Photo credit: @substandardnerd - Credit: Archant

“Who wants a gig to sound perfect anyway?” says Erika. M. Anderson, or EMA, after her second false start of the evening. In a weird way, she had a point.

While the Arctic Monkeys’ recent Finsbury Park shows for instance no doubt enthralled the thousands who attended, there is something almost too slick and pre-planned about many live bands heralded as today’s modern harbingers of rock ‘n’ roll.

In this sense, EMA is certainly an antidote. Channelling the spirit of groups like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Bikini Kill – who she later went onto cover – her set last Tuesday at Islington’s The Garage was far from polished, but at least emitted a DIY authenticity.

Sporting a super-hip pair of sunglasses which she later removed and mocked, EMA quickly launched into bass-thumping industrial single Satellites, which introduced the set’s constantly inventive and foreboding electronic percussion. So Blonde – the grungey opener to her new album, The Future’s Void – strangely lacked the energy captured on record, but as the audience subsequently warmed up, so did the band.

In songs like LA lambast California and fearful ballad 3Jane, EMA comes to the fore with her open, emotive songwriting, and indeed live this is also where she shines. Backed by a versatile electro-violinist and an impressively harmonious backing singer and guitarist, she creates a gang mentality with her crosshaired lyrics that you can’t help applaud.

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Most of the rusty moments were beyond the band’s control and due to some dodgy sound control all around. When EMA bowed to an audience request and played When She Comes – which sounds like a forgotten track from Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged set – it was not the first time she frustratingly signalled to turn the levels down and eventually it forced her to restart the song.

While on a purely sonic level, these sound imbalances did detract from a lot of the set’s later impact, there’s no doubting EMA’s cult appeal and few begrudged her the problems.

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Referencing the internet worries articulated in The Future’s Void, Anderson dryly quipped, “Tech angst, that’s what this is all about anyway, right?” Everyone laughed; they knew it wasn’t perfect, but they appreciated where she was coming from and that feeling, you sensed, was mutual.


Leif intro / Erika spoken word


So Blonde




Butterfly Knife



When She Comes


Feels Blind (Bikini Kill Cover)



Dead Celebrity

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