Emmy The Great and Tim Wheeler, Bush Hall, London (3/5)
Nick Hasted has been a film journalist since 1986. He writes about film, music, books and comics for The Independent, Sight & Sound, Uncut and Little White Lies. He has published two books: The Dark Story of Eminem (2002), and You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks (2011), both from Omnibus Press.
Thursday 15 December 2011
The Christmas album still stutters on in mainstream America for the likes of Beyonce (who recorded one with Destiny’s Child) and Justin Bieber.
The most startling recent addition was Bob Dylan’s Christmas in the Heart (2009), a warm-hearted excuse for Dylan fans to own all the hokey Christmas classics.
Now this year, after many false starts, there’s a genuine groundswell of new Christmas songs by unlikely young names – Gruff Rhys (whose Atheist Xmas EP considers suicidal depression amidst the decorations), She & Him (M. Ward and Hollywood actress Zooey Deschanel), and Emmy The Great and Ash’s Tim Wheeler. The latter’s This Is Christmas LP was hatched when the pair were stuck at Gatwick in last December’s snowstorms, and amiably combines humour (“Zombie Christmas”) and seasonal observation. Tonight the pair are in Shepherds Bush, in dress and tux respectively, for a short, quite sweet one-off show.
Wheeler, looking good in a suit, croons respectably. Emmy is drowned out by the scratch band (men in shades, backing singers in their best dresses), but finds her feet on ballads such as the simple, straight country of “It Was Christmas In Prison”, with Wheeler on steel guitar. Wham’s “Last Christmas” sounds like a sleepy Ash song, with Emmy softly shaking maracas she holds like a cocktail. “Home for the Holidays” has a heavier crunch of drums, keyboard-sourced sleigh-bells and mild guitar wailing. It’s most memorable, though, for the always chatty Emmy’s defiantly unlikely claim that “they don’t celebrate Christmas in East Grinstead, where I’m from – they’re all Scientologists”.
After “See You Next Year”, a mundane but effective relative of “Auld Lang Syne”, they return for an encore including the straight sentiment of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”, and the inspired surrealism of their own “Jesus the Reindeer”. “Donner, Blitzen – Jesus!” Emmy yells, introducing Santa’s unlikely new helper over ramalama rock’n’roll. A pleasant if inconsequential gig becomes truly special, though, when they finish with The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York”. It’s the only perfect modern expression of the Christmas song, of course, one haunted by drink, death and infirmity, and full of broken romance and blowsy yet gritty sentiment. The duo take a minute to get into character (Emmy taking Kirsty Macoll’s part, of course). But soon, amidst universal grins, the NYPD are singing “Galway Bay” again. And suddenly, it feels like Christmas.
A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend
A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Michael Brown shooting: Amnesty International sends team within US for first time as National Guard deployed
- 2 James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – and warns Obama of more to come
- 3 Reading Festival 2014: Tesco branch replaces salad and potatoes for Jagermesiter and vodka
- 4 Here’s the damning letter Robin Williams wrote to his Mrs Doubtfire co-star's principal after they expelled her
- 5 Ferguson protests: 90-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein ‘arrested’ by police during St Louis demonstrations
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness
JK Rowling releases new Harry Potter story on Pottermore: Introducing Celestina Warbuck, the 'Singing Sorceress'
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Reading Festival 2014: Tesco branch replaces salad and potatoes for Jagermesiter and vodka
Kate Bush: Previously unseen photographs reveal new side to comeback star
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Ukip MEP calls for reintroduction of death penalty on fiftieth anniversary of last deaths
Russell Brand calls for Israel boycott: Comedian urges big businesses that 'facilitate the oppression of people in Gaza' to pull funding
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK