"Could you ever dream it, I have never dreamed, dreamed a night like this" (Lyrics from "A Night A Like This")
Some things in life are so outstandingly good that to experience them just once simply isn’t enough. For us, singer Caro Emerald’s ‘Emerald Island Tour' falls into that category.
I first became aware of Caro Emerald on an oppressively hot afternoon last summer. It was a day made for lying in a hammock gazing at the sky in a state of drowsy indolence. But given that we possess neither a hammock nor a proper garden, that scenario was never going to materialise into reality. In any event, we’d invited friends over for dinner that evening so I was busy making preparations. Not known for my proficiency in the kitchen, and prophesying certain catastrophe before I’d even started, the atmosphere was, to be blunt, more than a little tense. So, in an effort to lighten my mood, Mr Moore introduced me to a few of Caro Emerald’s tracks in the hope that her upbeat songs might lighten my spirits. He wasn’t far wrong. After the first few beats I was hooked and found myself bouncing round the kitchen, full of optimism and energy. And before you could say ‘dice and slice’, we’d checked her website for concert dates and booked tickets for the 'Emerald Island Tour' at Birmingham's Symphony Hall the following April.
If you’re not familiar with Caro Emerald I challenge you to download some of her tracks and not be utterly seduced. Journalist Stuart Husband’s description of her music as a “mash-up of 40s-style big band jazz and modern beats – the Andrews Sisters and Mark Ronson thrown into a blender” is spot-on. Talking of blenders, Caro Emerald might have lifted my mood, but she did nothing for my culinary prowess. The dinner party was a flop and I cringe at the memory of soup so tasteless that I tipped it down the toilet and a dessert so soggy that it collapsed the moment we lifted it from out of the fridge.
In the wake of that sorry entertaining episode, I have no recollection of listening to Caro Emerald again for the rest of the year. Maybe that’s because I sub-consciously associated her music with feeling hot and hassled and utterly useless. Whatever the reason, until about a week before the concert I’d more or less forgotten we were going and arrived at Symphony Hall with no sense of expectation beyond that of mild interest.
But within minutes of Caro and her band taking the stage I realised that we were in for a treat. Projections of palm trees silhouetted against an azure sky, boats sailing across the ocean and images of Polynesian tiki combined to evoke the perfect backdrop to the Exotica themed music with its bird sounds and jungle calls. It was a journey, as the opening page in the programme had promised, to "enchanting places, places that may not even exist" and we were indeed "captivated by the charm of the unfamiliar." By the end of the show I was on my feet, dancing and clapping and singing. Even Mr Moore, who’s characteristically restrained, stood up and joined in. It was as if we were emotionally surfing on the crest of a huge wave of joie de vivre.
Such was our enthusiasm that we were talking about repeating the experience before we'd even arrived back home and within a few days tickets were booked for London's Roundhouse at Camden Lock where Caro Emerald was due to play her penultimate gig. We chose the Roundhouse because, being the only venue of the UK leg of the tour which offered tickets in a standing-only area, it promised the opportunity to dance without the restriction of a seat. And it didn't disappoint. Arguably, Symphony Hall is the jewel in Birmingham's crown, offering acoustic excellence and superlative facilities, but there was something about the informality of the Roundhouse which rendered it perfectly suited to Caro Emerald's style and conducive to being transported by 'Grandmono Airlines' to the chilled atmosphere of the magical Emerald Island.
Mr Moore reckons that the only venue with the potential to trump the Roundhouse would have been Paradiso, a former church turned mega-cool club, located in Caro Emerald's home town of Amsterdam. So we've resolved that the next time the band go on tour, we'll see them on their native turf. In the meantime, I'll be swaying to all those wonderful bossa nova rhythms, remembering being hot and oh so happy in hip Camden, rather than hot and hassled in our bijou kitchen.
© Pamela Moore 2017
Mr Moore says-
The keyboard sounds of Caro’s Emerald Island.
If you’ve read Mrs Moore’s earlier posts you’ll probably already know that one of my overriding passions is music and especially electronic musical instruments (WARNING: GEEEK ALERT!). So when I can coax Mrs Moore from out of her comfort zone of a museum or art gallery to a gig, I always try to point out to her how the sounds are being created and by what. The Caro Emerald concerts were no exception.
Stephen Large, Caro’s musical director, was on the left of the stage with his rig. Primarily he played two Nord Stage keyboards. As the name suggests these were designed for gigging musicians and provide a foundation of piano, organ and other timbres. These were complemented by a Moog Phatty with which Stephen created some ripping lead and low sounds. Bass player Jeroen Vierdag also played a Moog Phatty to create solid rich bass - definitely a forte of the Moogs.
For me, the highlight instrument was the Mellotron M4000D Mini. This unassuming white keyboard is a modern digital recreation of the 1960’s tape based instrument famous for its use on the Beatles’ ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, The Moody Blues ‘Nights in White Satin’ and David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’. The mainstay of many 70s concept album tracks, the Mellotron was originally pitched as a keyboard for the home, featuring a variety of short rhythms or musical phrases to provide accompaniment (think bossanova, samba etc). It was also used for sound effects (known as ‘folie’) in radio, TV and film production (the BBC was a user) providing everything from car break screeches and explosions to tropical bird calls and breaking waves. By incorporating these latter natural effects with the latin rhythms and tuned percussion, Stephen Large was able to evoke a tropical ambiance perfect for Caro’s Emerald Island. This was enhanced by the ’lo-fi’ character of the sounds which provided an instant shot of nostalgia.