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Gig review: Emeli Sandé remains the real deal

Heartfelt: Sandé belted out huge, billowy anthems


Emeli Sandé

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.

On a journey: Sandé stays positive

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.