Sandé’s first live album features all the hits – but there’s little edge on display.
Nick Levine 2013
It already feels like a cliché to call Emeli Sandé overexposed. During the last year, the Scottish singer has become hard to avoid, releasing her own deathless radio hits alongside chart-topping collaborations with Labrinth and Professor Green.
The tipping point probably came during the Olympic Games, when Sandé performed at both the opening and closing ceremonies.
This ubiquity has made her an easy punchline, but it doesn't seem to be affecting Sandé's popularity. Her debut album, Our Version of Events, recently notched up its 53rd consecutive week in the top 10.
Now comes Live at the Royal Albert Hall, a CD and DVD package recorded during her sell-out concert at the historic London venue last November. It's a classy affair: Sandé and her band are accompanied by an eight-piece string section.
Because she's been so prolific, Sandé is able to pack her performance with hits. Of the 16 songs on the CD, plus three more on the DVD, no fewer than eight have now made chart appearances.
Of course, she performs a sprinkling of album tracks too, as well as a couple of cover versions and two new songs called Enough and Pluto (the latter is DVD only).
Sadly, Sandé's live album has the same Achilles’ heel as Our Version of Events – namely, too many accomplished but humdrum ballads.
Daddy is a dramatic opening number, but things soon become one-paced and predictable. Professor Green's snappy guest appearance on Read All About It (Pt III) can't come soon enough.
Sandé then delivers her livelier hits, the trip-hoppy Heaven and gospel-tinged Next to Me, though neither quite catches fire tonight.
The only real surprise comes earlier, when Sandé introduces a track called Breaking the Law. "I hope that everyone has someone they'll break the law for," says this presumed goody two-shoes. "Any law..."
On the one hand, it feels mean-spirited to criticise Sandé's first live album. She gives a vocally impressive performance, backed by a well-drilled band, featuring all the songs fans would want from her.
But only in her mid-20s, she's already looking like British pop's newest safe pair of hands: the natural successor to Annie Lennox, though without the edgy earlier years.