Emily King has rhythm to spare. It shows in her music, her presence on stage, and the way her band interacts. It's the same rhythm that's given us everybody from Stevie Wonder to Carly Rae Jepsen. It's that groove that underlies everything that makes your hips shake and your head bop. And it was present during every single moment of King's performance at World Cafe Live this past Friday.
The night began with a set from Jennah Bell, who performed solo on electric guitar. Her set was captivating to say the least, with her powerful voice and supreme talent on the guitar. In the silences in between her words, you could hear a pin drop. She demonstrated her range with a cover of Bessie Smith's "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out," where her folksier voice turned more bluesy to reflect that of Smith. The majority of her set consisted of stronger soul and folk influences, creating a perfectly serene atmosphere in the downstairs venue.
Although Bell's set was a perfect beginning to the night, nothing could have prepared anyone for King's entrance. Entering in the dark, she pierced out of the fog with the opening lines to "Remind Me," the opener and hit single from her recent album Scenery. When the beat finally kicked in, it was like a wave rolled over the crowd and woke us up. The crowd came alive under the magic of her music.
She followed up by running through the other hits of her album, including "Can't Hold Me" and "Look at Me Now." Both bring an energy and light that draws comparisons to Prince from everybody who loves her music. Her crisp voice cuts through the air, as well as every slap of the bass and sparkly synth that accompanies her. It's incredibly uplifting, and she let that energy ride rather than settle down.
Speaking of uplifting, her songs' lyrics are just as enlightening as her rhythms. Take, for instance, her song "BYIMM," one of the most fun songs to see her perform live. King begins by describing the perfect partner, who takes care of her, is friends with her friends, and takes her mom out to dinner. But at the chorus, she reveals, "By You I Mean Me." Meanwhile, King lavishes in that literal self–love, playing up the indulgence and care expressed in the lyrics.
Near the middle of her set, King brought out an acoustic guitar to add a gentler element to the set, playing some of the older songs off her catalog, like those off her 2015 album The Switch. Even behind a guitar, she managed to bring enough groove to entrance and excite the crowd, even busting out the disco ball for one of her songs and enlisting the entire audience to harmonize to the outro of "Teach You."
Though the set lasted for well over an hour, it ended all too soon. It wasn't long, however, before she returned for an encore, performing her hit acoustic track, "Georgia." The song begins quietly, centering on her voice and guitar, but slowly brings in the whole band to add gentle arrangements and harmonies.
I was exhausted by the end, surprised at how much I had moved during the set. Emily King has the power to bring out the best in her audience, inspiring confidence, self–love, and excitement. Her performance was many things: a lesson, a workout, a therapy session. But to me, it most closely resembled a shooting star sighting: all too rare to miss.