“Those seats look really comfortable,” Caro Emerald practically purrs two songs in to her show at Harrogate Convention Centre. She raises one exquisitely pointed eyebrow. “I hope they’re not too comfortable though, because we are going to have a party.”
Decked out in form-hugging black and a Pink Lady jacket straight out of Grease, the contemporary vintage chanteuse practically screams seductive style; even deep into her third trimester, she holds true to her words and delivers a retro-pop masterclass that ultimately gets the predominantly older and reserved crowd dancing in the aisles.
Support is provided by Irit Dekel, known mononymously by her first name, whose half-hour slot blends gypsy accordion and flamenco guitar to beguiling effect. Though sonically similar in bulk, her compositions have enough pithy lyrical quirks to stand out; Just Because deals with European love let-downs, whilst Shut My Mouth tackles irate feminism.
She closes out with a jaunty rendition of R.E.M.’s Shiny Happy People, its sweeping strings reshaped into a gentle Latino lullaby, as she departs the stage before the song’s close.
Emerald’s sound is considerably bigger, brighter, shinier; her songs occupy a world where Monaco casinos and French beaches remain the height of luxury, painted in broad art deco brushstrokes.
Touring behind her tropical-tinted EP Emerald Island – and on a stage straight out of Elvis Presley’s Blue Hawaii that is littered with pina coladas – she dispatches a 21-song set with an effortless cool.
Her freewheeling blend of retro genres with modern leanings remains pleasantly fresh, and her crack seven-piece-band bring out hidden grace notes, be it the weightier hip-hops beats of the shuffling Riviera Life or the limber dance-funk that inhabits the chassis of Quicksand.
On Stuck, she channels Bryan Ferry through The Great Gatsby; she samples and extensively loops her own beatboxing to form a rhythmic shuffle for The Mastero.
Two costume changes to sparkling jackets necessitate extended jazz instrumentals that, whilst technically impressive, can become trying very quickly. But Emerald is quick to regather equilibrium on her returns to the stage; the sun-drenched party anthemics of Liquid Lunch and the speakeasy-swing charm of That Man both bring the audience to their feet en-masse.
A triumphant encore with the gleaming A Night Like This as the centrepiece follows; almost ten years on from her breakthrough, Emerald remains a charming, compelling performer wrapped in a golden haze of nostalgia.