“Gonna cry. Gonna croon”, sang Emma Smith tonight. Emotion and song are what she does. And she does both of them totally convincingly and musically. Her trio of Matt Robinson, with super-dep Calum Gourlay and Andrew Ball were supportive, imaginative, subtle throughout. The songs, mostly from Smith’s debut album The Huntress are starting to settle, to grow. There are new numbers too. All the above might be no less than you’d expect: Emma Smith progresses all the time. It is a fascinating journey to witness. She can take it at her pace. Like Proust’s slow train, the “tortillard”, you don’t mind if the driver waits until the last of his mates is on board before releasing the brake. The next station she’ll be calling at is next week, with Gwilym Simcock en duo at the Pheasantry on June 8th.
But here’s the surprise, or at least it was a surprise to me: the late night Thursday audience in the Royal Albert Hall was as willing, listening an audience as one could ever wish for. And young too. The alchemy, the magic dust of live performance doesn’t follow predictable rules. I couldn’t directly name the cause, only witness what happened and hypothesize. Perhaps Emma Smith is developing a growing ability to win an audience over from the get-go. The sound quality and balance were also very good despite the sightly cavernous room. They’ve got the lighting right too. It is also possible that this audience has come to put its trust in the Elgar Room’s programming, and let itself be won over by whatever the programmers put in front of them. Whatever the causes, the result was unambiguous : this was an audience that was happy to lap up what they heard tonight.