It may be a Sunday evening, but this hasn’t prevented Emma Ruth Rundle‘s headline show from being a sell-out tonight. Even if she deserves to be a much bigger proposition, she’s certainly amassed a solid and loyal following to her work, whether it be solo, or with bands such as Red Sparowes and Marriages.
Many have attempted to categorise her alongside other artists such as Chelsea Wolfe and A.A. Williams, but Rundle has enough qualities to ensure she stands out on her own; her distinctively recognisable vocal delivery, and her hard-to-pin-down sound (somewhere in the darker end of folk and country, sludge metal, and alternative rock). Closing up the touring cycle for her much-acclaimed album, ‘On Dark Horses’, tonight sees everyone gathered in anticipation.
The sole support act of the night is cellist, Jo Quail . Performing with just her cello and a loop pedal, everyone keenly listens, with the crowd remaining silent throughout the set. It could be said that her work requires your utmost attention, but once you’re in, you’re in. Largely reliant on soundscapes and a clearly minimalist approach, we’re submerged into a whirlwind of sounds and tension.
There’s some almost synthesised-sounding sections, coupled with some more intense periods that appear later on. Quail offers a solid masterclass in light and shade, and overall a captivating support slot to warm us up.
Ever humble and understated, Emma Ruth Rundle  takes to the stage accompanied by her band, bringing her very personal songs that everyone in the room has felt a connection with at some point. As to be expected, tonight sees many airings of songs from ‘On Dark Horses’ as well as her previous solo album, ‘Marked For Death’.
With the strong emotional impact of her records, that aspect can certainly be tough to pull off live, as is shown in some of the early stages when sound-wise there’s simply too much low-end for the vocals to be accentuated to their full potential. Still, there’s plenty of weight with songs like ‘Apathy On The Indiana Border’ and ‘Darkhorse’, to the point where tonight’s crowd continue to be pulled in. Like earlier on, we’re largely moved into silence.
The slight sound issues in the early stages are through no fault of anyone performing, of course, and after a guitar change-over things begin to pick up. The ever-impactful ‘Control’ propels the set greatly, and ‘Dead Set Eyes’ is a definite highlight.
The ‘Marked For Death’ cut ‘Medusa’ ensures that Rundle now has the room in the palm of her hands. Her stage patter is minimal, but the somewhat dramatic bowing of the guitar before ‘Light Song’ shows that her presence is very much naturally commanding.
As things begin to draw to a close, Rundle and her band walk off stage briefly. It’s testament that it feels like time has passed quickly, and, sure enough, she returns, with the encore bringing us possibly the most poignant moment of the evening; the powerful ‘You Don’t Have To Cry’ is as emotionally impactful as it is tender. To cap things off, we get a more stripped-down affair; with just her guitar as an accompaniment, we’re serenaded with ‘Real Big Sky’, another number which tugs at the heartstrings.
With a discography that’s only growing bigger and greater as time goes on, Emma Ruth Rundle has left everyone here feeling completely at one with her, delivering a set complete with multi-faceted and raw expressions of emotions.
Music graduate from City University, partial to almost anything with ‘post-‘ in the genre description.