'Stay away from sharp objects and pills' was my friend's advice when I was giving Emeli Sande's debut, 'Our Version of Events', a first listen. To an extent she was right, her haunting voice and heavy use of some beautiful strings could definitely push someone over the edge, but the album also featured some great uplifting tracks so I'm glad I managed to catch the Manchester date of her current tour.
As I walk into the cavernous Ritz, it's clear Emeli Sande's music now reaches far beyond the Unity FM and Deaf Institute audiences she was playing to last year. In just over 12 months she has blown up to Radio 1 proportions, doubtlessly helped by a critic's choice award at the 2011 Brit awards which alerted much of the media to her existence. Unlike some artists however, I'd call this meteoric rise more than justified. A talent such as this is a rare one indeed and in this style-over-substance world of popular music she definitely has both in abundance. The sold out Ritz crowd is quite a diverse one, seemingly ranging from the singer's younger fans to people who will have picked up her album on a trip around Tesco, but they are filling up the Ritz and seem mostly excited at what is to come.
The star takes to the stage with a 'Mad Men'-esque outfit and a 'FInal Fantasy'-esque hairdo and jumps straight into one of her singles 'Daddy' which gets the crowd's attention nicely. We are then treated to a number of cuts from her debut album including 'Suitcase' and 'Breaking the Law' all performed to perfection. Being a singer with a great voice who can play the piano, Sande has inevitably drawn comparisons to Alicia Keys and I'd be happy to do the same - Scotland has produced more than a match for the American mega star here. Indeed we are told during the gig, that Emeli penned the song 'Hope' with Miss Keys (as part of an extensive songwriting catalogue featuring many big artists) which was performed alongside the equally beautiful 'River'. It is the constant dialogue with the crowd which really captures the audience here, it is clear every single person's attendance is greatly appreciated by the songstress and we are rewarded with short tales of the origins of songs and the singer's past life as a student of medicine (multi-talented or what!).
The show comes to a climax with her first hit single 'Heaven'. As great a song as this is (with even better remixes) it's actually one that doesn't really do her amazing voice justice and sits apart from the others in her setlist in a style all of it's own, still this has no bearing on the ensuing full singalong from the crowd which lifts the roof off the Ritz. There's only time for one more song in the encore and that space is reserved for her biggest single to date 'Next to Me' which gets the biggest cheer of the night and gives us one last chance to bask in her resplendent voice. Perfect.