April 1, 2009

Emiliana Torrini @ Hiro Ballroom

DOWNLOAD: Birds - Emiliana Torrini

This past fall, my friend Paul spent some time in Iceland and Sweden. Upon his return to the States, he provided me with a bunch of new music from abroad including Emiliana Torrini's latest album, Me and Armini. I knew nothing about the Icelandic singer prior to listening to this album but I was immediately impressed with her voice and her song writing. Just a few months later, Paul mentioned she was playing an intimate show at Hiro Ballroom.

Hiro is a beautiful, Asian themed room located below the Maritime Hotel. On a typical night, the venue is home to DJs and table service but my experience with the club has been anything but typical. The only other time I've been there was back in October when I saw Andrew Bird the same week he finished recording his latest, Noble Beast.

Opening for Ms. Torrini was another Icelandic singer, Lay Low; her given name is Lovísa Elísabet Sigrúnardóttir but she uses Lay Low onstage. Paul had hooked me up with latest, Farewell Good Night's Sleep, when he gave me Emiliana's album but I hadn't listened to it more than once before the show. Her performance was pleasant but subdued; as I'm writing this review almost a week and a half after the show, I can't say much about her set stands out in my mind.

Emiliana's set, on the other hand, was very memorable. Although she played several songs off some of her older records, the focus was decidedly on Me and Armini. There's not much to be said about her stage presence but she told wonderful stories between songs. She also did a masterful job selecting songs, building the set steadily throughout the evening.

The show really hit a peak about three-quarters of the way in when she played Birds and she managed to keep the energy up for the rest of the show. Clearly, things went even better than Ms. Torrini had hoped. With the audience clamoring for more after a pair of planned encore tunes, Emiliana quickly conferenced with her band and decided on one extra tune before calling it quits.

Overall, I was impressed with her performance. Even though the show was slightly more restrained than I was in the mood for that evening, it was abundantly clear why she's so popular in the U.K. With some good press and an extended tour of the States, I wouldn't be surprised if she became a household name in the U.S. within a year.

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