Royal Festival Hall, London

Music review: Caro Emerald - There isn't anything shocking about this Dutch diva

3.00

 

"You promised me a motorcade and endless perfume," the Dutch diva belts out on her infectious hit "Stuck", the song that persuades the whole audience to rise to their feet. It takes a while to rouse the crowd but once up they stay up for the remaining eight jazz-infused songs.

The 32-year-old singer from Amsterdam mixes, somewhat giddily, swing, mambo, tango, Latin and big band, with some corpulent beats on top. Incongruously, for such a retro-feeling concert, there’s a DJ, Kypski, here with a mixing desk.

Caro Emerald, born Caroline Esmeralda van der Leeuw, is also accompanied by an eight-piece band, featuring a well-employed, three-strong horn section. It's a slick, uncomplicated two-hour set that includes three costume changes and tracks, mainly, from her latest album, The Shocking Miss Emerald, which, like her 2010 debut Deleted Scenes from the Cutting Room Floor, topped the UK charts.

There isn't really anything shocking about Miss Emerald, she is resolutely on-message. Her in-between song chatter is practical, she informs us of her upcoming O2 Arena concert, that there's a free download available online and gives thanks to her record company for "believing in me". Emerald, a former vocal coach on the Dutch version of the X Factor, has a sizeable merchandising stall: sweatshirts are going for £35, a Caro magnet will set you back a fiver. Reasonably shocking.

Most of her breezy songs, such as "Excuse My French", "One Day" and the jaunty excellent "That Man", could easily grace a car advert or soundtrack a dinner at a mid-priced chain restaurant. It's inoffensive, undemanding, toe-tapping material played out in front of bright, busy visuals that evoke the Marilyn Monroe film Let's Make Love.

"Liquid Lunch", Emerald's ode to boozing, is a highlight, particularly when she exclaims "That second last Martini, the one that went down real smooth/ Set me on the bender with nothing to lose". On "I Belong to You" she goes the full Shirley Bassey, shamelessly claiming beforehand that this would make a perfect James Bond anthem. Best of all is her exquisite "A Night Like This", which is as light and frothy as a Dean Martin comedy.

There are longueurs, however, and, there isn't the messy, exciting vigour that the rockabilly Imelda May can generate or the tangy soulfulness of Amy Winehouse. At its most grating, the material sounds like the sort of Euro-pop you'd cross an ocean to avoid. Nevertheless, Emerald's formula is wildly successful, and the classically trained vocalist is an impressive, robust frontwoman. Just don't expects any shocks.

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