The Gershwin Room at St Kilda’s Espy (aka the Esplanade hotel) was the perfect setting for last night’s ‘Asylum’ gig by Emilie Autumn, a sideshow to her tour with the Harvest Festival. The American performer loves her Victoriana, melding lace and feathers with lashing of goth and steampunk, and the Espy’s peeling paint, pressed metal ceilings and ageing blemished mirrors suited the show to a tee. Or perhaps to a ‘tea’ might be more appropriate …
Emilie is a powerhouse, at home on the keyboard and the violin, with a decent range in her vocals and oodles of expression, and a deftness when it comes to interacting with her adoring audience, most done up to the nines.
She also has her support crew — Captain Maggot, voluptuous Veronica and dotty Contessa — to keep things lively on stage, including tea parties, lesbian pantomime and a girl-on-girl kissing sideshow called the Rat Game. Contessa and Maggot are adept at fire twirling, and Veronica plays a mean keyboard, too. Maggot is a particularly cool character, piratical in nature and small of stature, but possessed of wicked expressions and a top sense of balance, appearing as she does at one stage on stilts.
But there’s no doubt this is EA’s show, and she’s a fascinating ring mistress for this vaudevillean presentation set inside an asylum for wayward girls. Last night’s gig felt much tighter than when I last saw her in late 2009 doing much the same. Last night’s set also featured the title song of her forthcoming album, ‘Fight Like A Girl’, which suggests a similar musical direction to the winning Opheliac.
There were a few minor sound glitches, particularly early on, but songs including ‘Liar’, ‘Opheliac’, ‘I Want My Innocence Back’ and ‘Dead is the New Alive’, performed to thumping backing tracks, evoked effusive responses from the phone-wielding crowd. The only place the show seemed to slip away was towards the end, with a series of might-have-been final tunes proving false.
The encore was a cheeky singalong to a recording of Monty Python’s ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’, with EA promising a speedy return to Oz. Keep your dance card open for that one!