Liverpool Philharmonic Hall ★★★✩✩
THE new song Emeli Sandé is choosing to announce her return to the limelight — she’s currently touring Real Life, her first album in three years — is Survivor, another of those soulful Radio 2 anthems that extol the virtues of putting hands to the sky, wiping tears from your eyes and getting on with the business of living.
That’s been Sandé’s stock-in-trade ever since Heaven — ‘You’re not going to like me, I’m nothing like before’ — her breakthrough, Unfinished Sympathy-aping single from 2011.
Intentionally or not, her songs are the perfect soundtrack to highlights montages for reality television contestants who have been ‘on a journey’. It felt like a journey took place here too, from a seated, concert-hall crowd gently clapping their appreciation to — by the triumphant end — groups of friends with arms around each other, literally dancing in the aisles to Next To Me, interpolated perfectly with Bill Withers’ Lovely Day.
New album Real Life doesn’t stray too far from Sandé’s template of vast, billowy anthems — indeed, the slight criticism of her work has always been its lack of nuance or experimentation. Live, that meant her impressive voice sometimes waded through the mix of an enthusiastic band — it was telling that the stripped-down atmospherics of new song Honest provided the first truly captivating moment.
Honest is classic Sandé — she introduced it as a hard-won lesson about living in the moment and it contains plenty of encouragement about standing proud and loving who you are. It could easily be on the Frozen 2 soundtrack. Perhaps she’s right, though: positivity, optimism and self-belief might be the only way to survive in her industry. In Liverpool on Saturday, it felt like everyone wanted to believe her too.