Emily Portman

King's Place, London

17 March 2019

Not exactly a concert as such, the format of this event was a talk illustrated by songs. The subject is the role of women in traditional song, and Emily Portman is a perfect choice to present it — the first time I saw her, 10 years ago, was her masters' recital of songs entirely based around this topic. And it's clearly informed her songwriting ever since, so to hear her expand on the ideas behind the writing of the songs I already love is fascinating.

But in addition to the "lecture", there are plenty of songs over the hour and a quarter, some traditional and some of her own, some unaccompanied and some with Rachel Newton on harp.

I've always been captivated by her songs, often darkly disturbing and full of enigmatic imagery. Hearing them in the context of the talk makes me appreciate them more. So the event works on both levels — not just as an interesting talk, but as a proper concert.

And honestly, if I had known I would hear Rachel and Emily perform Little Longing one more time, I might have come all the way to London solely for that.

It was the best not-exactly-a concert I have ever seen.

Bizarrely, I'm writing this review in the King's Place cafe with Emily Portman sitting three seats down from me. That's a bit disconcerting. Luckily she doesn't know me...