LIVE: Emeli Sandé at The Howard Theatre

Photos: Tyrone Clemons/Tcphotographics

The Battle of the Pompadoured Emilies was on and pompin’ at the historic Howard Theater and a bit of a revelation to me. The Emilies I am referring to are Emeli Sandé and Emily King, who have both been making some very interesting music these past few years. It was a wonderfully balanced concert. Emily King had the extroverted image with laid-back vocals, while Emeli Sande’s look was a little subdued, but she delivered a powerhouse performance.

Emily King’s pompadour was giving me everything! Height, volume, blonde streaks. She wore a colorful Navajo print button-down shirt, a black sparkly cropped jacket, and black skinny jeans. She was giving me all kinds of K.D. Lang-type butch glamour! I really appreciate her artistry! Although she represents NYC, her live show has this beachy, relaxed vibe that makes you want to listen to her while you’re reclined under a palm tree. I credit that sound to her minimalist, yet no less amazing, band. Emily played the electric guitar, and was accompanied by a keyboardist, a female background singer, and a percussionist who actually played the wooden box he was sitting on instead of a drum set, all while playing a tambourine and shaking his ankle bells. Since parting ways with J. Records, Emily has been on her independent grind, releasing excellent E.P.s that showcase her quiet confidence as well as her vulnerability that she neatly wraps up into beautiful vocal arrangements. I believe in what the future holds for her musically and look forward to her upcoming projects.

Because Ms. King’s pompadour swag was so epic, I was expecting big things from Ms. Sandé. However, when she came out to perform, I was taken aback. The pompadour was more like an exaggerated over-bleached comb-over. It looked nice, but I was expecting a little more…erectness. Her outfit looked as though she had just got off from work, hopped on the Metro, and ran up into the venue to do her side hustle. She had on a silky cheetah-print blouse, a jersey-knit black pencil skirt, and…a pair of black Nike’s?!?!??! Before I could fully analyze what was before my eyes, she got straight down to business. Starting things off with her hit song, “Heaven,” she completely had the audience hooked on her every word and movement, which consisted of some bippety-bopping around the stage. She seemed to be in her own little world, and we all wanted to be wherever she was.

I had largely underestimated Ms. Sandé. Based on what I had heard and seen from her, I decided that she was talented and well-packaged, but just not my cup of tea. After seeing her perform nearly every song from her debut album, “Our Version of Events,” I was looking at her and listening to her with a fresh set of eyes and ears. Being that Emeli is Scottish and that this was her first time performing in D.C., I would think that she would be trying to make a dazzling first impression. I realized that she was not throwing up smoke and mirrors via hair and wardrobe to mask any lack of talent. She decided to look comfortable and BE comfortable and just sing her heart out. Her soulfully polished brand of power pop lent itself well to Howard Theater, as she proved that she didn’t have to hold herself to the American gutterbucket standards of Mary J., Keisha, or Fantasia to get her point across and prove her soulfulness.

With that being said, I’d rather see Emeli Sandé live any day than actually listen to her album. For those of you who were at the show, remember what you saw and heard and then go and listen to her album, and tell me that the production did not totally drown out her vocals! She should consider recording a live album. I’d buy that the day it came out! Overall, it was an awesome concert that gave me a newfound love and respect for both Emeli Sandé and Emily King, my Pompadoured Princesses. May the power of the pompadour live on…viva la pompadour!