Show Review: Emily King @ BAMcafé
The thought of roaming New York is more than enough reason for me to take a hike, or a bus rather, to the Big Apple. I can shamelessly admit my Philly heart has a soft spot reserved for this audacious city, especially when so many great musicians emerge, return, or end up in this art wonderland. One of those great musicians, and New York native, is Emily King.
This East Village New Yorker just accompanied a little singer by the name of Emeli Sandé on a world tour, making a stop at Philly’s Theater of Living Arts back in January, which I regrettably missed. Well, it’s not too regrettable; by missing that show I found this one, which brought me to the majestic BAMcafé.
BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) is one of New York’s multi-art havens that explores, promotes, and celebrates every kind of creative expression – literally. From hip-hop and movies, to poetry jams and opera, if you want entertainment, you want to make a stop at BAM. It’s grand without the arrogance and I was in awe as I made myself comfortable in the warm, open, and intimate space of the BAMcafé.
The Peter Jay Sharp building houses the BAMcafé, just an escalator ride up from the main floor. It was strikingly appealing in all of its modernity. The bar was located adjacent to the escalator and was packed, dishing out all kinds of goodies including the exclusive Brooklyn brew BAMboozle (yes, BAM is so good it gets drinks named after it). After the bar, the room extends with a slew of tables and chairs, the relaxed kind you’d find at your favorite outdoor burger joint, which is refreshingly chill. You can’t help but be captivated by the illuminated emerald arches curving from the tiled floor to high, industrial ceiling, the amazing lightening, and the incredible access to the stage.
The house was nearly packed almost two hours before show time. The energy from the crowd was charged; some people were avid Emily fans and some were newbies just out for a Friday night, but they were pumped to see the show regardless. As sound check cleared and the lights dimmed, onlookers sat on open floors and stood along the walls as the tables filled and house chatter hushed. A BAMboozle brew later, Emily emerged, band in tow, in a floral blazer and jeans that accompanied her signature up do; a pinned swooped loop and buzzed edges. She spiced it up even more with a hot pink streak along one side that completed the petite package that is Emily King.
Petite indeed; she was just under average height, almost swallowed by the red guitar she hung around her neck, but she proved that size didn’t matter when she took the mike and unleashed her colossal voice. Her first two songs of choice were “Down” and “Radio” from her The Seven EP, which she sung effortlessly before she thanked Brooklyn for their positive response. King is humbled by the crowd throughout her show, joking about awkward attempts she has made to engage a crowd during past performances.
She was as funny as she was talented; she took a small jab at the Brooklyn crowd, telling them it wasn’t “cool” to be from Brooklyn when she was growing up. King then goes on to redeem herself by admitting everybody from her borough moved to Brooklyn due to its growing popularity. King had the room hanging on the edge of her jokes, but more on the edge of her voice as she took it back to her debut record East Side Story.
She whipped out tracks such as “It Was You,” “In My Evolution,” and “Never Be Lonely,” which solidified King is an unapologetic performer, in the sense that she sings as though she’s alone. Her eyes close, her knees fly up, and her arms swing in every direction. Her animated self is only encouraged by the crowd who joins along as she softly, but strongly carried out her tunes.
The greatest crowd pleasers seemed to have been her new single “Ordinary Heart” and her The Seven track “No More Room,” which King gave all credit her band “mate” and collaborator Jeremy Most. He’s the tall, elusive type that has killer vocals that support Emily’s amazing talent. They are a righteous pair on stage and in the studio. In fact, the entire band tore it up, completely in sync and equally moved by their music.
Emily’s set was as infectious as her smile on the stage, and she had complete control over the room with her mild temper. She takes the time to introduce her band and even calls out her family, who are there for moral support, including her musically inclined jazz musician mother and her never-ending dance party grandmother (but that’s a whole other story).
King brought the show to a graceful end, tossing in an Isley Brothers’ cover of “Work to Do,” which was as funky as one could get. She takes the time to stop for photo ops and autographs, drifting smoothly through the room without skipping a beat or a person. I’ve always been a fan of great musicians, but I’m a bigger fan of great people. Emily King happens to equal parts of both and her performance at BAMcafé, both on and off stage, attested to her awesomeness.
To learn more about BAM.
To learn more about EMILY KING.