Emeli Sandé at the Dakota Jazz Club, 3/05/12

Emeli Sandé
Dakota Jazz Club, Minneapolis
March 5, 2012

It's not too often that an artist on an inaugural four city U.S. publicity tour makes a stop in Minneapolis. Typically, they just stick to the coasts and catch us after they have already started making big waves in America. But thankfully that was not the case for Emeli Sandé, as the Scottish singer (who currently holds the Number 1 record in the U.K.) easily charmed the sold-out Dakota Jazz Club Monday night with a stirring, soulful 45-minute acoustic performance.

Sandé (whose first name is actually Adele, and wisely goes by her middle name professionally) was flanked by a guitarist, cellist, and a drummer throughout her impressive set, and while they occasionally colored the songs with subtle musical flourishes, the band was respectfully understated and restrained during the performance so that all the focus would be on Emeli's soaring vocals. While she is quite used to playing much larger venues back in the U.K. (and will be in the U.S. as well after she opens for Coldplay, including their St. Paul dates in August), Sandé seemed quite at home on the intimate Dakota stage, warmly introducing each song to an audience who are still becoming familiar with the rising star.  

Sandé stuck mainly to tracks from debut record, Our Version Of Events, during her engaging, 11-song set, and even threw in an impassioned cover of Coldplay's "Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall" that successfully stripped away the neon-drenched, stadium-anthem conceit of the original and turned it in to a stylish, ebullient number. But it was Sandé's own songs that truly wowed the crowd, and she opened her set strongly with two of her biggest singles, "Heaven," and "Next To Me," a song that Emeli said was written to "celebrate the loyalty and love of the males in her life," something she feels is distincly lacking in most pop songs.

And that auspicious optimism and boundless positivity is what rings clear in so much of Sandé's songs, refreshing sentiments which are far too rare these days, and mostly non-existent in modern music. She does have some somber numbers as well, including the tender "Suitcase," which she told us was, "My heartbreak song." Emeli only took to the keyboard once during her set, for the hopeful strains of "Clown," but it was her Rihanna-like "ode to addiction,""Daddy," which really stole the show, and should sound absolutely massive when she plays Xcel with her full band in August.

Sandé certainly has the voice to captivate a much larger audience, and her rich, sonorous vocals rang true throughout the entire performance, especially on "Breaking The Law," and the rousing, impassioned main set closer, "My Kind Of Love," which got everyone on their feet for a standing ovation as Sandé and her band left the stage. The ovation didn't let up, so the band returned for a one-song encore of "Maybe," which featured a lovely chorus and easily identifiable lyrics, and closed out the performance on a high.

It will be interesting to see what type of success Emeli Sandé has in the U.S., and if America is just too Adele-ed out at this point to embrace another strong, passionate female voice from the U.K. But chances are Sandé will surely find an audience in the States, and her auspicious opening slot for Coldplay should only hasten her eventual success here. The fact that this was an intimate, stripped-down acoustic set makes it difficult to imagine how Sandé's live show will translate to a large arena setting with a full band behind her, but she clearly has the voice and the charisma to fill any venue, and should have no problem winning over large audiences just like she charmed all of us at the Dakota. 

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: Other than knowing that Sandé has the Number 1 album in the U.K., and won Critics Choice at the Brits Awards, I went into the show blissfully unaware of what to expect. And while her style of music isn't necessarily my favorite, I was charmed by her hopeful, encouraging songs.

The Crowd: Full of industry insiders, media types, and U.K. music fans who all wanted see Emeli Sandé in such a small club before she breaks big in the States.

Overheard In The Crowd: Thankfully, not much more than Sandé's resounding vocals.

Random Notebook Dump: After the set, those of us who stuck around were entertained by a surprise set by Aby Wolf and Grant Cutler, who billed themselves as the WolfLords for their intoxicating, impromptu performance. Wolf's golden voice soared over Cutler's subtle, electronic melodies, as the duo truly brought the night to an elegant conclusion.



Next To Me

Where I Sleep


Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall (Coldplay)




Breaking The Law

My Kind Of Love

Maybe (Encore)

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