Emily Wells - Water Rats, London

There are some moments as a music journalist that make you reflect on just how lazy we can be. Witnessing Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist Emily Wells’ debut UK show was one such occasion. With the start of each song, Wells meticulously sets up every loop and beat with magnetic ease, and then proceeds to play at least two further instruments during each song. We couldn’t help but feel writing a few words about the night just doesn’t reflect the effort put in. Yet, to paraphrase the Bee Gees, words are all we have, so get prepared for some lyrical waxing to compensate.

Easily drawing the largest crowd of a four-strong lineup, Wells was in town to mark the release of her excellent debut European disc Mama. The album showcases Wells’ considerable vocal range, from the fragility of ‘Let Your Guard Down’ through the hip-hop inflected ‘Dirty Sneakers And Underwear’ to the eerily beautiful stylings of ‘Piece Of It’. If that wasn't enough, the UK release also comes with an entirely acoustic version of the album, giving each track a markedly different feel to the original versions. For anyone who hasn't come across Wells before - either with her debut The Symphonies or her appearance on the Stoker soundtrack - Mama is a formidable calling card.

And if there’s to be one slight disappointment to her debut UK live outing, it’s that the setup of the night offers just a short, six-song 30 minute set, meaning Mama gets just a brief live introduction. Still, for an artist with such supreme talent, a short set is more than enough to create a long-lasting impact.

We’re not exaggerating when we say we could pick any of the six as a highlight but, for us, two tracks perfectly encapsulated what makes Wells such an exciting musician. On record, ‘Fire Song’ is delightful and in a live setting, it kicks up a notch; all sumptuous strings (Wells trained as a classical violinist) and soft, captivating vocals, it’s a track that prompts instant admiration. Tonight’s closer couldn’t be any more contrasting stylistically yet is equally magnificent musically, with Wells tackling a cover of Little Willie John’s ‘Fever’ with bristling energy and an endearing playfulness.

Put simply, if Emily Wells is playing anywhere near you in the coming months, it’d be a crime to miss it. Tonight may have seen her effectively on a level playing field with three other acts, but it’s surely only a matter of time before Wells is leading her own UK charge. Masterful.

Set List

FEVER (Little Willie John cover)

Category Live Review

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