Regather, Sheffield, 20th May 2016
At various points in Emma Pollock’s set, we’re told ‘I think you’re our favourite audience of this tour’ and ‘I think this is the smallest stage we’ve played on’. Are the two related? Regather’s gig space has the band almost on eye level with a small but appreciative crowd, instruments and bodies squeezed tightly in at one end of the room. It makes for an intimate and ultimately very friendly live experience.
A warm, funny and self-deprecating stage presence, Emma Pollock doesn’t keep much distance between herself and the audience, physical or metaphorical. Earnest, emotive singing rides on tunes by turns urgent, plaintive and poppy. The audience laughs as much as they applaud.
Showcasing only her second solo LP since the demise of Glasgow band The Delgados, Pollock’s singing maintains a thread between that band’s distinctive and adventurous guitar pop, often augmented with strings and wind instruments, to today’s tunes which range from urgent reverberating electric riffs to forlon acoustic guitar and piano building a climbing frame for often deeply personal lyrics.
Between songs Emma sets up the story behind the next tune, or she would do were it not for gremlins chewing at the cables, first frustrating the drummer’s ‘Blue Monday’ synth beats early on. The good natured Sheffield ribbing that results diverts Pollock onto quite a different track and a ping-pong game of banter grows throughout the gig.
One fan right at the front manages to monopolise then hijack the to-and-fro. A gentleman of respectable years, resembling a South Yorkshire cousin of David Hockney who’s just stepped off the deck of a canal boat, he encourages Pollock ‘you can sing about whatever you like, lass’, to the band’s bewilderment. When the alcohol in his bloodstream really takes the helm and moves him to sing ‘I Belong to Glasgow’, Emma peers down at her guitar’s fret-board and mutters ‘Oh, you’re not coming on the van now’.
The rest of the crowd aren’t about to let an over-refreshed guest ruin the party though, and the tracks from ‘Searching For Harperfield’ and ‘The Law Of Large Numbers’ hold the crowd in rapt silence. The heartfelt meditations of ‘Intermission’ and ‘Dark Skies’ draw out strong applause. At the other end of the spectrum, the combative pop of ‘Parks and Recreation’ and ‘Confessions’ with its fully functional synth drum pulse get heads nodding and broad smiles. Caught off guard by another salvo of Sheffielder wit, Pollock throws back her head and guffaws; a musician with no use for studied cool, her openness brings the crowd into her songs and deserves far more listeners outside of tonight’s gig.