Gig review: Emeli Sande, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

AS THE maker of last year’s best-selling album in the UK, Emeli Sandé could most certainly be playing bigger venues than this.

Emeli Sande

Usher HAll, Edinburgh

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So ubiquitous is her pop presence that she may not always have the option to keep it cosy like this again, but it is a token of her serious-minded and Old School approach to the presentation of her music that she has chosen this relatively intimate theatre environment over an impersonal arena for her latest Scottish homecoming.

For all her collaborations with various hip young guns, Sandé is essentially an old-fashioned artist in the piano (wo)man tradition of Nina Simone and Alicia Keys (another of her collaborators). But what she lacks next to her stellar influences is natural charisma. She has become more practised as a vocal belter, if a little strangulated in the upper reaches of her range, and has no end of emotive testifying gestures, not to mention some blindingly bright stage lighting, with which to embellish her performance.

However, all her restless efforts smacked of a need to oversell the banal MOR pop likes of Breaking The Law, the would-be soul-stirring Mountains and Suitcase which she managed to over-egg even with solitary bass backing.

When she finally dialled it down, on piano ballad River and This Much Is True, a new love song for her new husband, the music lacked the sparkle to really engage. At least her set-closer Wonder managed to tap into an unforced celebratory seam.

A couple of other new songs, the 2011 riots-inspired The Half Of It and the vacuous yet somehow still overwrought Pluto, suggested that Sandé will continue to milk it down the middle with her next album.