From empty to almost full in a few minutes – Sticky Mike’s was the perfect setting to see Emma Niblett and her band.
Opening with ‘Gun’ from her 2013 album ‘It’s Up To Emma’ she channels PJ Harvey at her rawest with a smattering of Kim Deal. Playing the first couple of songs without the band set things up nicely for a very personal set.
Her voice switches from soft croon to powerful falsetto ala Corin Tucker from Sleater-Kinney and tracks like ‘Can’t Fool Me Now’ really stand out. The drums provide a deadly tight backdrop that allows Niblett (or should that be Scout?) to wander through the songs with passion.
Between lyrics there is absolute silence, making things feel more like a performance than just another show. In any case, we definitely get our money’s worth. After some audience questions and a few quips about drunkenly falling over she gets back to the task ahead and blazes through ‘Hot To Death’ (from 2005’s ‘Kidnapped By Neptune’) which brings things up to pace.
Even though she now lives in Portland, Emma is actually British. That’s something to be proud of, as she writes songs that can keep people interested through the whole gamut of emotions. She knows the quiet/loud fast/soft dynamics routine so well you’d think she taught the Pixies how to vary things up.
The only thing that puts a slight downer on proceedings happens to be the guitarist who seems like he turned up to a practice one week and just kept noodling over everything until he was allowed on tour. Luckily Niblett’s guitar lilts and groans with a great valve amplified sound – resonating with each bent note.
The crowd seem captivated from the start to finish and Sticky Mike’s shows once again that it is the venue of choice for more intimate shows.
Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar, Saturday 22nd June 2013
Words by Dan Griffiths