Live Review: Emiliana Torrini & The Colorist Orchestra – Le Trabendo, Paris 27.03.2023

Don Blandford

An Icelandic-Italian singer backed by a Belgian band in the French capital watched by an Englishman. Gotta love Europe. Emiliana Torrini and The Colorist Orchestra celebrate the release of new album Racing the Storm at this headline Paris show.

Walking through the litter-strewn streets earlier, it felt like Paris is collectively catching a breath before the next General Strike begins in the morning. Tonight many are preparing to do what the French do best – protecting their rights and fighting to maintain a positive life-work balance. Others are pursuing a cultural diversion. Le Trabendo is the place to be tonight.

Opening with the souk soaked vibe of Illusion Curse from the new album it’s a sublime start. Following with the undulating Thinking Out Loud is a fine reminder of Torrini’s gorgeous 2005 album Fisherman’s Woman, she is enchanting.

Emiliana is excited to be in Paris for the first time in six years. Joking that it’s been so long she’s now “suddenly middle aged” but adds “which is kinda cool!”. Emiliana reflects on the song writing process and how being older makes her wonder what experiences to write about now – “we have long term relationships now, and they are really hard and it’s like an endurance test, like Vietnam or something!”. Then she dedicates Right Here – with its beautiful tinkling piano and strings to – “us, beautiful middle aged people”.

The very best gigs immerse you in another world to the point where life outside is a faded, spiky memory. Emiliana and The Colorist Orchestra create an atmospheric space of their very own. Blood Red has such a lush sound it could easily sit on that Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi classic album Rome from a decade ago. Sinister, compulsive and magnificent.

Torrini introduces Nightfall (written with Kid Koala for a film soundtrack) as being about “seeing our planet from outer space…” – a classic song as elegant as a ballgown. A brooding mood returns on Smoke Trials. Supporting artist Pitou joins the stage for backing vocals on Mikos and then Emiliana introduces the title track from the new release and admits how how hard it was to get the record made…“It’s been an extremely long road to making this record, and there was everything in the way, everything to stop us…a crazy electrical storm in Belgium, Covid – the other storm, a storm in our six hour drive home in Iceland. Then when we started recording, another electrical storm took the studio out – so we decided it would be fitting to call it Racing The Storm…”.

Tonight is certainly the calm after the storm. Emiliana continues to charm with more anecdotes. Revealing her love of taking very long soaks in the bath she explains how being little she uses a snorkel in the tub! This revelation came out of a story of a broken tap dripping with a “bebop beat” that she wanted used in a composition. The band weren’t impressed but a couple of drops do very briefly appear at the start of Hilton with its fantastic lyric about pretending to work whilst actually doing online shopping.

The resident mad professor character on keyboards is Wim De Busser and Torrini wittily describes how he helped with lyrics for Lonesome Fears, “written when he was sitting in the garden shouting at the rain…” as he was trying to work out the words. By contrast the following, Me And Armini from 2008 is a much jauntier, sunnier affair.

After the briefest of stage exits the encore begins with the instrumental Dreamlands showcasing the immense talent of The Colorist Orchestra that has entranced this Paris concert hall throughout the evening. Jungle Drum from the Me and Armini album is a crazy, fiesta fuelled romp. A zesty contrast to the chamber pop eloquence of Torrini’s latest work. There’s just time left in the ninety minute set for the fitting finale of Wedding Song. With her typical Icelandic honesty Emiliana explains how she wrote the song when she was getting married but quickly adds, “I was never going to get married ever in my life…but it happened!”. The song was inspired by a dream she had whilst she was pregnant with her son, “of course when you write the greatest love song of your life it has to be super mushy and it was the hardest song I’d ever written in my life!”. Romance and realism wrapped up in one song.

Having sparkled and captivated throughout, Emiliana Torrini & The Colorist Orchestra leave the stage. Like her native Iceland, Emiliana has been both dark and foreboding and bright, light and uplifting. A magical night. Paris is beautiful once more.

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