Emma Ruth Rundle

support Jaye Jayle
author AP date 29/10/18 venue Hotel Cecil, Copenhagen, DEN

After the iconic Jazzhouse shut its doors last year, the venue was beautifully renovated into an elegant speakeasy decor and named Hotel Cecil, bringing with it the promise of a more diverse, or rather, more rock-oriented program. With the exception of VEGA, it is the only venue in town to host artists from that genre and stock a more interesting selection of beverages than lagers and long drinks, and as such, I have grown extremely fond of the place. My experiences there have, however, been dampened somewhat by poor turnouts — something I am pleased to discover is not the case tonight. Claiming the honour for drawing such a crowd is Emma Ruth Rundle, whose solo career has far surpassed the success of her other bands — Marriages and Red Sparowes — and yielded five critically acclaimed studio albums, the latest of which (“On Dark Horses”) was added to her repertoire earlier this Fall. There should thus be plenty of new material making its Danish live début tonight, hoping to woo those of us that were left a bit disappointed by Rundle’s previous concert at the 2017 edition of A Colossal Weekend.

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest

Jaye Jayle

Jaye Jayle’s frontman Evan Patterson hits the nail on the head when he points out that he feels like the band was meant to play at this beautiful venue, for the Louisville, KY-born quartet fits Hotel Cecil’s experimental profile well. While his baritone singing is quick to invite references to Nick Cave, there are plenty of other influences at play and comparisons to be made during the 40-minute set, too. The Handsome Family, Hexvessel, Kellermensch and King Dude all appear in my notes afterward, underlining just how eclectic the group’s take on neofolk really is when one listens closely. I say closely, because the style of Jaye Jayle’s music is as subdued and tempered as their showmanship, which mostly consists of the four musicians each bathing in the warmth of a solitary yellow spotlight, minding his instrument, as though busking beneath a streetlight. This impression is at its strongest during the closing track, “Low Again Street” (off the band’s latest album, “No Trail and Other Unholy Paths”), a psychedelic alt-country piece that gracefully captures the experience of homelessness. But while Patterson and his cohorts — bassist Todd Cook, multi-instrumentalist Corey Smith and drummer Neal Argabright — come across as a little reserved and introspective on the surface, there is nonetheless an intensity, a nerve about the way their musical stories are presented, leaving the slowly multiplying audience in complete silence, except when clapping is due of course. I will not say that I am completely sold just yet, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t at the very least intrigued by Jaye Jayle’s brooding, yet elegant expression.

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Emma Ruth Rundle

With Patterson manning the guitar and Cook the bass guitar in Emma Ruth Rundle’s touring band, only half of the personnel on stage is replaced during the changeover. In this different capacity, the two musicians seem to have more freedom to rock out, though as the opening track, “Dead Set Eyes”, quickly shows, their doing so never threatens to remove the spotlight from Rundle. Her voice is too gorgeous, and her performance too impassioned for that to happen; she simply fills the room in defiance of her delicate physique, letting her well of emotion wash over the audience with such ardour that by the time “Fever Dreams” (another cut from Rundle’s recent fifth album, “On Dark Horses”) takes over, teardrops are glistening in the corner of many a patron’s eye. This opening segment is enough to convince me that Rundle has lifted her show immensely compared to the last time she dispelled the contents of her heart to a Copenhagen crowd, striking me as more confident in the way she carries herself on stage and presents herself to the audience and giving rise to a number of spine-tingling moments — both when at her most powerful in the likes of “Protection” (off 2016’s “Marked for Death), when at her most fragile in tracks such as “You Don’t Have to Cry”, and especially when her voice and muted guitar notes are the only sounds in the venue during the solo piece “Shadows of My Name” (off 2014’s “Some Heavy Ocean”) in the encore.

I have never been drawn to singer-songwriters in the traditional sense, but these disrupters like Emma Ruth Rundle are another story. While the focus is still on the basics — guitar and singing — the mixing in of doom, post-rock and other heavier elements suites my taste like a glove and a hand. There is so much atmosphere to her music, and it lends itself perfectly to the live setting, where the mix and volume can render its weight even greater, and where her every word can be accentuated by an expression. And tonight, Rundle covers pretty much the entire spectrum of expressions during her 12-song set, overwhelming us with pain and happiness, love and loss, and hope and desolation. It is rare to experience a venue so devoid of random chatter as is the case here tonight, which only strengthens my impression that we are witnessing one of those fabled magical concerts. I am not sure if I was drunk or tired or what it was that put me off Rundle the last time, but with her efforts tonight, she joins some fine company among the most special shows that I have been fortunate enough to see over the last few years.

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Setlist:

  • 01. Dead Set Eyes
  • 02. Fever Dreams
  • 03. Apathy on the Indiana Border
  • 04. Protection
  • 05. Races
  • 06. Marked for Death
  • 07. Darkhorse
  • 08. Control
  • 09. Light Song
  • 10. Heaven
  • 11. You Don’t Have to Cry

— Encore —

  • 12. Shadows of My Name

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