Shot! Caro Emerald in Brighton

Despite a strangely reticent audience, and some particularly naff visuals, the Dutch diva delivered another polished performance

Having been to five Caro Emerald concerts, most recently at the same venue some 18 months previous, I’d like to think I’m qualified to offer the 37-year-old Dutch diva some advice.

And it’s very simple. If the venue you’re playing has the option of removing the seats in front of the stage, go with that configuration. I know it means dispensing with the £100 or so VIP seats, but the reduced revenue will be more than made up for by the increased atmosphere.

A Caro Emerald concert cannot be fully enjoyed unless you’re standing up and shimmying to the music. Tapping your toes whilst sat in your chair just doesn’t do it.

With a not quite full audience not quite willing to be roused until requested to do so some five songs from the end, the atmosphere was strangely out of kilter with what was happening onstage.

Why they were quite so inhibited, I don’t know. Whatever the reason, the difference between the end of the show and what preceded it was palpable.

Despite Caro claiming that this tour was ”going to be different”, those who’d seen her before would’ve known exactly what to expect. They would’ve also known most of the songs. With just two albums to her name and with the third not even on the horizon, this was a kind of ’best of’ selection from her back catalogue.

That being said, she did release a 6-track EP last year and her set-list was peppered with a few new songs, three instrumentals and one new cover, all of which comfortably fitted into her trademark jazzy club vibe.

Apart from Caro herself, what always elevates her shows is her exuberant seven-piece band. All make a big contribution, but three deserve special praise. As ever, guitarist Wieger Hoogendorp grabbed the limelight with his flamboyant playing (and awkward dance moves) Indeed, one of the evening’s highlights came when he and Caro performed an acoustic duet.

But even Wieger was outshone by the two man horn section of David Temple on sax and Ben Cummings on trumpet. It’s they who elevate the music and give it its oomph and vibrancy. Both showed their mastery of brass, whether playing together or soloing. Indeed, you couldn’t imagine a Caro Emerald show without them.

Sporting a metallic pleated skirt, Caro herself sang as well as she always does and interacted with the audience more than I’ve seen her do in the past, even at one point cajoling them to take part in a call and response.

The sound was pretty decent, although to my ears, the volume was a tad on the quiet side. My major gripe however was the production. Like almost every big show these days, there was a huge video screen behind the stage. Unfortunately, how it was used could only be described as dire.

Memory serves that Caro’s visuals have always been underwhelming, but at a time when other artists are being really creative with their screen graphics, this was a masterclass in infantile imagery. To be honest, the screen would’ve been better used for live shots of Caro and her band.

Despite the below par staging, the band’s scintillating playing and Caro’s personality shone through and ensured it was another enjoyable evening, albeit cone that only really took off once the audience found their feet. As good as it was, it could have been so much better if Caro had ramped up the production.

The impression I came away with was of an artist performing well within herself. Next time Caro comes to Brighton I hope it’s in support of a new album, that she steps up the staging and jettisons the seats in the stalls.

Setlist: Intro: Paradise | Tangled Up | Mambo Shuffle | One Day | Tahitian Skies | The Ghost Of You | My 2 Cents | Night In Brasilia | I Know That He’s Mine | Close To Me | What Man? | You Don’t Love Me | Excuse My French | Wake Up Romeo | Havana (Camila Cabello cover) | Back It Up | Liquid Lunch | That Man || Stuck | A Night Like This

“To me, shooting live music is all about capturing the personality of the performer and the emotion of their performance. And then creating an iconic image.”

Behind the image: All these images were shot with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 using only the 75 1.8 lens and the camera’s built-in digital zoom using available light only. I was only able to shoot the first three songs, but as the sole photographer, with no pit and a seated audience just a few feet away, it was fairly awkward. My focus was on getting portraits of Caro, rather than full-length shots of her or her band. The lighting didn’t help as it was stubbornly red much of the time. As always, I wanted my images to be different from other photographers shooting the tour as Caro was wearing the same outfit every night. I really like the end-results. I think they’re distinctive and really capture her personality. Shot in Brighton on 20 October 2018.

Creator of images that are out of the ordinary, reviewer of live music and live events and interviewer of interesting people