Emiliana Torrini, Lay Low @ The Forum, Melbourne (2/01/10)

Is there a better venue in Melbourne for Emiliana Torrini than the Forum Theatre? Probably not. The wonderful architecture, combined with Torrini’s superb blend of honest, catchy, occasionally heart wrenching pop/folk created a very impressive night for all involved.

Supporting Torrini was the little known, but still excellent Lay Low. Hailing from Torrini’s own homeland, Iceland, Lay Low (or LovíƒÆ’í‚­sa ElíƒÆ’í‚­sabet SigríƒÆ’í‚únardíƒÆ’í‚óttir when she’s at home) started her evening’s set acoustically supported by one of Torrini’s band members. Her mostly finger picked songs covered a wide area of subject from heartbreak and leaving to love and forgetting the pain – not new territory by any shape or means, but SigríƒÆ’í‚únardíƒÆ’í‚óttir’s charm and incredibly cute accent quickly won the crowd over.

The second half of Lay Low’s set involved the rest of Torrini’s band to come out and amp things up a notch – This is where she really impressed. Merging blues, pop, country and folk to create her own sound, Lay Low was a deciding bluesy, heavier version of Torrini herself. Highlights included a slow burning heartfelt song which saw SigríƒÆ’í‚únardíƒÆ’í‚óttir singing “Lay me down, my time is now” and Please don’t hate me, a dark, dirty blues song that had her demanding “get your high heels off my chest cause they’re hurting me” before emploring “please, please, please don’t hate me”, the pounding heaviness complemented by eerie mandolin.

In a flash of florescent pink amongst the black and white of her band members, Emiliana Torrini shone, and it stayed that way for the whole night. With three albums under her belt and a confidence in her music that only comes from heavy touring, Torrini’s bubbly, sincere and incredibly charming demeanour along with her thick, and extremely cute accent grabbed the audience’s attention and held them for the entire evening.

Rarely has a gig been so silent whilst the entertainer was talking (and performing). And the respect that the audience held for Torrini was returned with the singer passing information about songs to the audience that gave a deeper insight and appreciation into the meaning and stories behind a lot of her material. Despite barely moving from her spot in front of the microphone (which can often be a downfall for many performers), Torrini has something special about her. A kind of glow that entrances the audience, and combined with her obvious enjoyment in what she is doing and her body looking like she wants to build to something that never quite comes, she holds their attention for the entirety of the set and only at the end allows you to realise that she’s played for well over one and a half hours.

Torrini’s ability to weave a story that amuses, charms and captivates audiences is astounding, her stories (both about her songs and her travels ranged from the simple (“this song is about the right love at the wrong time” – Sunnyroad ), the honest (“I think you have to be really fucking brave to be happy” – Big Jumps ), the quirky (“We were at Falls Festival in Tasmania…in a souvenir shop and we found a bottle opener. With Kangaroo balls on it!”), and the plain bizarre (“I have no recollection of writing this song…We think there was this woman who was stalking Armini and she died and went into my whiskey and then I had a Whoopi Goldberg moment – Like in Ghost.” – Me and Armini ).

Highlights from her incredible set included the fantastic sunnily sad opening song Fireheads that contained some of her most heartfelt lyrics (“It’s not fair to say we wasted time. In my view we just used it all up”); the boppy Big Jumps; the heart wrenching then hilarious, as Torrini got the giggles, Beggars Prayer; the crazily fun Jungle Drum (This song is the epitome of everything being in love should be – “Hey It’s cause of you – The world is in a crazy hazy hue”); the subdued Lifesaver and the loungey sadness of Fisherman’s Wife.

Though the standout track of the night had to be the terrifyingly dark Gun. With its pounding, heavy atmosphere, the drummer using a violin bow on cymbals to create amazing sounds and the most powerful lyrics of the night (“Yes this is a kiss that I swear will blow your mind”), the song gripped everyone in the Forum and held them until the final note faded.

Finishing the set, Torrini left only to be cheered back on stage, explaining her distaste of encores – “We played a show at an Oxford Jazz club and the manager told us to go into this door on the side of stage and wait until everyone clapped more, then come out to play another song. We agreed…walked into the door and it was a cupboard – Then everyone stopped clapping”. With this hilarious anecdote, Torrini and band launched into a low key three song encore, before leaving for the final time.

An absolutely incredible night from one of the most charmingly complete performers touring at this time. If you haven’t listened or seen Emiliana Torrini it cannot be recommended more highly.