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A Beautiful Voice Rises Above the Rain

August 29th, 2013

Emeli Sandé – Rumsey Playfield – August 28, 2013


Over the weekend, I was at an MTV Video Music Awards viewing party and shouted, “It’s Emeli Sandé” as she came out to present alongside Adam Lambert, and several people asked, “Who?” Needless to say, Sandé isn’t a household name here yet, but she’s not far from making a name for herself on American shores, having already nabbed an invite to the White House in May. She played for the President at an award ceremony honoring Carole King. It was fitting for Sandé to join the famed songwriter, as she has written songs for some of the brightest U.K. stars, including Cheryl Cole, Leona Lewis and Susan Boyle.

Last night at Rumsey Playfield, the air was sticky with humidity building from threats of thunderstorms. A few in the crowd donned plastic ponchos amongst a sprinkling of opened umbrellas. As a black backdrop with Sandé’s name rose, onlookers erupted for the main attraction of the night. Perched behind a piano, the songstress began her set with “Daddy,” followed it with “Heaven,” which she dedicated to “those with good intentions.” The Scot was thankful for fans braving the rain to see her and promptly transported them to a Caribbean island with the dancehall swagger of “Where I Sleep.” Other highlights included the debut of a new song, “Who Needs the World,” and a special stripped-down version of “Suitcase,” accompanied by minimal basslines, allowing her soprano vocals to ring clearly through the trees of Central Park.

The second half of the set was allocated for fan favorites, like “My Kind of Love,” “Clown” and “Read All About It, Pt. III.” She performed the latter at the closing ceremony of last year’s Summer Olympics in London. Sandé concluded the main set with “Lifted” and “Wonder,” a pair of Naughty Boy songs in which she’s featured. There was no doubt Sandé would return for an encore, offering a playful twist on the bridge for “Maybe”: “Maybe it’s time to go New York City. But I just I don’t know.” To top off the night in fashion, the audience joined in on the chorus for “Next to Me.” As if a choir in a chapel, the crowd began clapping and singing in unison—all for the Church of Sandé. Amen! —Sharlene Chiu

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com