In the United Kingdom, you are so reliant upon the weather for any outdoor event, it really can make or break it in an instant. I look back fondly upon many a Glastonbury Festival where tents were washed away, people were kayaking up and down the main drag and hurricane force winds did their best to destroy the spirits of everyone in attendance. Tonight was different, the weather for the opening night of Greenwich Music Time was what some people might refer to as “to die for” and the atmosphere was electric as England faced Colombia in the knock out stages of the World Cup.
I wasn’t sure how it was going to work tonight, were they planning on screening the game in-between the acts? All became apparent when I entered the amazingly scenic grounds of the Maritime College in the heart of Greenwich. The support act were to play for 20 mins before kick-off, then take a break for the first half, then play the remainder of their set during the football half-time, leaving Emeli to take to the stage come the 90th minute…..that was of course assuming that the game ended at the 90th minute!
Opening up the show was Manchester based 5-piece Y.O.U.N.G. who did a great job of getting the crowd warmed up ahead of the football and before Emeli Sande took to the stage. Their blend of rap/ska/rock and pop fused effortlessly to create a sound that everyone got involved with. Ben was leaping about like a man possessed, splitting his time between keys and frontman duties whilst the rest of the band did a sterling job of keeping it all together.
They played a tight and energetic set which I am sure will see their fan base increase after tonight’s performance in front of so many people. Check them out online at all the usual social media outlets and their website www.young-official.com
Now, to the main act. From what I gathered, England were 1 - Nil up at the 88th minute before Colombia managed to hit the back of the net from a well-placed penalty! I thought that we were looking at a 9:30 start at the earliest but Emeli and her band filed onstage soon after and announced that they had “a lot of songs for us” and were keen to get started in order to meet the tight curfew that had been imposed (we all remember what happened to Paul McCartney or Bruce Springsteen at Hyde Park a few years back….)
Emeli looked the part dressed in a full length jacket and a turban style headpiece (I am sorry, I’m not into my fashion and I’m sure there is a proper name for said headwear…..)
Opening up with the crowd pleasing songs “Hurts”, “Heaven” and “Wonder” which she collaborated with Naughty Boy on, it didn’t take long until the place was warmed up and forgot that there was an important football match taking place a couple of thousand miles away in Eastern Europe!
A few songs into the set, Emeli took to the piano to sing “Free as a Bird”, which sounded beautiful, her voice ringing out around the beautiful surroundings of the maritime college with the cityscape of London’s Canary Wharf shimmering in the evening heat behind her as the sun began to set.
Midway through “Beneath You're Beautiful” the scores came in from the live penalty shootout, resulting in a win for England which saw Emeli and co launch into a rendition of “It’s coming home…..it’s coming home…..it’s coming…..football’s coming home!” which saw the whole place erupt into a mass sing-a-long! The bars were certainly doing a roaring trade once more!
Her set took us on a roller coaster ride through her musical career, showcasing the unique talents of everyone that made up her band including a very tight rhythm section, some magnificent backing singers and a horn section that many artists would give their kid’s spare kidneys to have onboard! Emeli also performed a cover of the classic "Sweet Love" by Anita Baker which sounded as note perfect as the original but with her own style overlaid to bring this classic track into her 2018 setlist.
She closed with the super popular “Next to Me” and “Read All About It” which were the perfect songs to end the evening, I reckon we’ll be “Reading All About It” for the next few days following England’s win this evening!
Having seen Emeli perform at the Radio 2 ‘Festival in a Day’ event at Hyde Park last September, I had no doubt that she could carry off the headline slot at tonight’s show and I am glad to say that she certainly delivered! It was amazing to see such a talented performer playing in the heart of such a classic venue, steeped in maritime history and with such an idyllic backdrop, roll on the remainder of Greenwich Music Time as there are so many more quality acts to look forward to!
Words & Pictures by Steve Muscutt