Emeli Sandé at the O2 Arena, London, review: Powerful and captivating

Chloe Hubbard
The Independent
Emeli Sande performs at the O2 Arena in London, October 2017: Rex
Emeli Sande performs at the O2 Arena in London, October 2017: Rex

With a five year gap between Emeli Sandé’s hugely successful debut album Our Version of Events and 2016’s Long Live Angels, an ambitious arena tour could have been a gamble for the Scottish singer - would the songs synonymous with every major event in 2012 still resonate in the unforgiving space of London’s O2?

Sandé acknowledged the hiatus and thanked her fans for their support at the earliest opportunity, the first of many times the singer would connect with the audience in an endearing and genuine manner throughout the night. But she need not have worried, she had already proved her point with her thunderous and energetic opening, arriving onstage to the infectious "Hurts" - a track from Long Live Angels - she had the crowd entranced long before she touched any of the material from her 2011 work.

Sparkling in a bejewelled shrug framing her trademark cropped haircut, Sandé enlisted a full band for the arena tour complete with brass, wind and a trio of backing singers, the combination gave her songs the big band sound needed to lift the volume and fill the cavernous stage at the arena.

Predictably it was the tracks from her breakthrough album which initially lifted the audience, but the artfully curated setlist allowed her newer material to spark alongside the old, even outshining it in places — most notably in the final section of the performance when the fresh dance track "Highs & Lows" provided the preview to Sandé’s "Next to Me" as the final number. The latter should have been the bigger hitter, but the fresh, joyous singalong nature of the new track proved the artist is not a one album wonder.

More evidence of Sandé’s thoroughbred nature shone when she performed her new single "Starlight", another unbelievably catchy pop song which would surely be the envy of any artist of the same genre.

Part way through the evening Sandé made her way to a small circular stage in the centre of the floor and played "Clown" and "Read All About It II" - the later moving many of her fans to tears, such was the might of this now six-year-old song.

Before launching into this rendition, Sandé acknowledged her performance of the song at the closing ceremony of the London Olympics, alongside the same pianist who played alongside her at the O2. “We’ve been in some surreal situations you and I” the singer said, before adding that this current performance was one of them.

Backing visuals of scenes in Africa and the upbeat delivery and dance routine to accompany ‘Wonder’ was joyous. There were no flat moments in the set, something which could have easily been an issue considering the subject matter and sombre nature of some of Sandé’s music.

The humble nature of Sandé’s crowd interaction, coupled with her faultless vocals and stunning band gave a performance which could so easily have been lacklustre, a powerful and captivating edge, complete with the promise this soulful Scot has much more to offer.

What to read next