Emiliana Torrini at the Forum on the 2nd of January, 2009

7 out of 10: Endearing Italian-Icelandic folkish lolling

Emiliana Torrini has established a strong following in these antipodean shores: the sweet singer with the Italian name and Icelandic voice managed to fill the Forum on a Saturday night set aside for soothing an aching New Year’s head. Only fourteen months separate her last appearance here at the same venue, and Melbourne’s couples are out in force tonight to hear her perform her adorable songs arm in arm.

Torrini sings liberally from each of her three albums released worldwide, showing no particular preference for any one. The crowd too is just as pleased with songs from eleven years ago as they are two, and they enthusiastically support Torrini’s performance the whole night through.

Much of the electronica from Torrini’s first and third albums are arranged for instrumental accompaniment. Live, the approach pays handsome dividends as songs such as Me and Armini and Unemployed in Summertime are rendered evermore affecting. The sparse, disarming songs of her second album, Fisherman’s Woman, only gain in warmth in the Forum’s ornate, starry surroundings, and perhaps the song she’s most known for in these parts, Sunny Road, is a delight to hear in such a setting.

Torrini does venture off into less salubrious territory, though. On Jungle Drum, the upbeat rhythm and her parum-pa-pum-pumming are completely out of place (although her dancing — a cross between Bjork and Peter Garret — is exceptionally endearing), as is the turn to noisier musical accompaniment more generally the further the night progresses. Torrini is best when everything is stripped back and her voice, so charmingly accented, is left to lilt softly.

This is just as true when there is no music. Torrini’s chats with the audience between songs are a joy. Her manner speaks of a happy-go-lucky soul, winsome, effortlessly prepossessing and surprisingly comical. Upon a crowd member’s wishing her a happy new year, she responded self-mockingly with “so let’s celebrate with another song nobody can dance to” before wishing for a dance beat and proceeding to beat box one herself. Woods, birds, cocktails and breezes are repeated themes in her chats with the audience about her songs and whatever else might pop into her head, all of which is duly lapped up by an appreciative audience.

Torrini is a wonderful performer, a natural singer and a disarming character. For those who made their way to the Forum, the second of January may not have been as raucous as the events of last year’s last day, yet its restrained splendour was a soothing contrast that is much more likely to be remembered.

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