Live Review: EMA

By Tony Inglis
Broadcast, Glasgow, 6 October 2017

EMA brought her brand of noisy, paranoiac pop to the low-ceilinged basement at Broadcast on a busy Friday night in Glasgow’s city centre. The low turn out for the show suggested that too many people had decided to submit to the lesser pleasures of the city’s pubs and clubs, to their complete detriment.

But the only half capacity room did nothing to dampen Midwesterner Erika Michelle Anderson’s enthusiasm, nor the present crowd’s adoration.

Touring off the back of her most recent treatise on American isolation and societal ills, Exile in the Outer Ring, the night gets off to a slow-burning start with spoken word opener ‘Where the Darkness Began’.

On this, as well as other low tempo cuts from Exile, and past records The Future’s Void and Past Life Martyred Saints, the whirring crescendo of noise (most of which is broadcast through electric violin) can sound as much like the droning noise-rock of artists like Pharmakon, as it does Anderson’s catchier, more immediate influences. This is no more apparent than on the incredible ‘Breathalyzer’.

Credit: Alicia Gordon

When performances hit more euphoric notes, such as on rocker ‘Fire Water Air LSD’ and the beat-driven ‘I Wanna Destroy’, she is prone to leaning her tall figure into the crowd, staring down audience members.

She performs most of the night amidst a haze of smoke (emitted from a smoke machine with which one onlooker, close to the front of the stage, seems to be fighting a losing battle). During ‘Blood and Chalk’, EMA’s version of a classic American rock ballad, with a very modern theme (Anderson has said it could be about a police shooting), the room’s smoke mask renders the track stadium-sized. With the fog obscuring much of the stage, we might as well be in a vast arena.

Judging from crowd reaction, the highlight of the night comes from perhaps her best-known song, ‘California’. But it’s the torrent of noise that backs her vocals on ’33 Nihilistic and Female’, the contrast of harsh electronic feedback and ear-catching melodies, which epitomises why EMA is making such vital pop music.

Featured photo credit: Alicia Gordon

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