Emiliana Torrini & The Colorist – Islington Assembly Hall 8 February, 2017

Iceland’s Emiliana Torrini is garnering a reputation for impressively adept collaborations, whether it be bands of gypsies, Berlin jazz musicians or experimental Belgian collective – The Colorist – her latest alliance. The result of this partnership is a live album featuring some new material, but largely made up of reimaginings of selected tracks from Torrini’s back catalog.

The Colorist immediately bewitch the audience with their, initially, gently melodic, then ascending thump of percussive impulse – punctuated by rhythmically pizzicato flourishes – as an introduction to the evening’s event. In some ways the Islington Assembly Hall is a perfect setting for what Torrini and the eight-piece Belgian ensemble have to offer. The solemn simplicity of a borough council office’s exalts the thunderous percussive interjections to a level that shrouds the Icelandic singer in the magnetic aura befitting a Pagan high priestess. Torrini’s outfit aids and abets this impression as she lithely (especially for a heavily pregnant woman) saunters on stage, following the introductory percussive howl,  in her vestments: A full-length poncho and trousers combo seemingly tailored by Mongolian nomadic women (lots of flowers and whimsy). The bands assortment of instruments augment the arcane atmosphere: From piano, viola and double bass to marimbas and something resembling a space hopper.

Upon Torrini’s delicate, priestly and understated arrival onstage, the music breaks into the new interpretation of ‘Caterpillar’ from the ‘Tookah’ album. Her ethereal vocals flutter distractingly above the soft twinklings and tappings of the band behind her. And there her voice remains, whether supported with little musical accompaniment – as in the almost a cappella rendition of ‘When We Dance’ – or adroitly surfing the percussive waves of sound the are to come later. From the start, Torrini, with her sweet and innocent physiognomy, sways at the microphone in rhythmic bliss, already lost in the music. Torinni is incredibly engaging with her audience and elicits many a laugh with her humorous anecdotes and musings between songs. By the time we arrive at the fourth song in the set – the divinely peaceful ‘Birds’ – complete with heavenly chirping – the space inside the venue begins to take on a hippie commune feel. Members of the audience begin to mirror Torrini’s now signature swaying, becoming drawn into the musical nirvana that those on stage expertly fashion; love reigns supreme.

As we are guided serenely into ‘Nightfall’, Torrini continues her melodic proselytising with an almost forlorn wailing, like whale song calling out for a lost calf. It is hard not to be utterly moved by such vocal expression. The show is not without its jaunty and high-octane moments, however. ‘Animals Games’ has an understated and melancholic funkiness to it, which sends pulses of electricity through audience members shoulders. ‘Jungle Drum’ is another highlight which ends the main set in frenetic euphoria, or hysteria, I can’t be sure.

Emiliana and the band treat us to a three-set encore beginning with a haunting and atmospheric instrumental, which brilliantly sets up the bursts of acidy exhales that are ejected between verses by a now viperish Torrini. This is ‘Gun’ and it intoxicatingly descends into a schizophrenia under the red light, smoke, shrill moments of pizzicato and pulsating spotlights. We are returned to sanity with the tranquil twinkling of piano keys that accompany the gorgeous ‘Bleeder’. As a finale, Torrini gives a sultry rendition of Kylie Minogue’s ‘Slow’ (a song Torrini co-wrote). It’s the perfect way to cap a delightful marriage of the delicate and the outright sublime.


Full Setlist

  1. Caterpillar
  2. Serenade
  3. When We Dance
  4. Birds
  5. Nightfall (Pale Blue)
  6. Animal Games
  7. Blood Red
  8. Thinking Out Loud
  9. Tookah
  10. Speed of Dark
  11. Today Has Been OK
  12. Jungle Drum


  1. Gun
  2. Bleeder
  3. Slow (Kylie Minogue cover)

About johnny3wishbone

University of Bristol alum Follow me on Twitter @DanielAdshead25 A few of my favourite things: International development, human rights, justice, wildlife conservation, primates, politics, literature, music, catharsis, theatre, my fiance, history, environment, current events, writing, reading, running, fundraising, campaigning, activism, travel, Prague, Bristol, Mexican food
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