Emeli Sandé, SWG3, Glasgow ***
There is a shy modesty to Emeli Sandé which only evaporates when she sings – and then the pendulum sometimes swings the other way into over-emoting. When introducing a song about racism, any anger she might feel was kept under wraps – Sandé prefers a positive outlook with generalised lyrical sentiments intended as broad succour.
Despite the anthemic aspirations of her music, she appeared more comfortable in an intimate setting, kicking off her latest tour in a venue she could probably fill several times over – although still not as intimate as the solo piano show she will play in Glasgow in a couple of weeks.
Accompanied by a basic guitar/bass/drums/keyboards line-up and without any additional backing vocalists, Sandé worked hard to convey the scale of some of her bigger tunes, bolstered by beefy, arena-worthy drumming on Breathing Underwater. But Sandé is not a natural belter and was far from her sweet spot when straining for significance on My Kind of Love.
Happily, her newer material explores different and sometimes subtler textures, such as the mid-paced declaration of Ready to Love from latest album Let’s Say For Instance, or the traditional gospel testifying of You Are Not Alone from her 2019 album Real Life.
Best of all, the 80s-influenced R&B of Look In Your Eyes represented her first delve into disco and the carefree deployment of her higher register was a pleasure to behold. The feelgood vibes prevailed with the massed uplift of Wonder, rock bombast of Yes You Can and standard issue positivity of Brighter Days.
Inevitably, the older favourites hit the mark for the crowd. There was rapt appetite for the mawkish Clown and singalongs to Read All About It and Next to Me before she closed with a souped-up, rockier version of her debut single Heaven, which retained some of its original drum'n'bass cool.