The last time Caroline Esmeralda van der Leeuw played Brighton she sold out the Dome despite the fact most people had never heard of her. Some 18 months later she’s enjoying a level of fame which has made the thankfully abbreviated Caro Emerald a shining star and the biggest recording artist in her native Holland since Golden Earring. What’s more, there’s now even a full-time tribute act. On the back of her chart-topping second album – and an appearance at Glastonbury – she was back, this time selling out the Brighton Centre – something she could have probably done twice over.

These days it’s hard to say any artist is unique, but there’s no one I know quite like Miss Emerald. She occupies a niche all to herself and yet appeals to a wide audience all over the world. There’s nothing Dutch about her singing or her songs, if anything it’s a fusion of Parisian cabaret and Vegas showtime. Her music is an odd blend too, part jazz, part pop, part hip hop. It sounds a strange combination, but strangely it works.

Her rich and powerful voice – with no trace of an accent – is perfectly suited to the jazzed-up songs she sings, but apart from the infectious music, what make her live performance so special is her infectious personality and the quality of her 8-piece band. Fortunately, the sound guys really pulled out the stops and nothing got lost in the mix. And despite the soulless nature of the venue, especially when compared to the Dome which so suited her music, Caro and the band made you feel that you were in an intimate jazz club.

The only negatives were the lack of video screens – you need to see her up close – and the fact that the audience remained in their seats until the last few songs. Enclaves of dancers did spring up at the sides of the venue, which was hardly surprising as her foot-tapping music just encourages you to get up and dance. The same happened at the Dome, but maybe that’s because it’s a much more intimate venue.

It’s not easy to single out any one musician, all were given their moment in the spotlight, but two deserve a special mention: the trumpeter whose playing at times brought back memories of the Tijuana Brass and the splendidly named guitarist Wieger Hoodendorp who once again with his gorgeous white Gretsch guitar was the main man.

But for the most part, all eyes were always on the one woman onstage. She changed outfits several times during the show, but none beat the blood red Simone Rocha dress and beret ensemble she wore during the opening numbers. Highlights of the 23-song set included ‘Tangled Up’ ‘Pack Up The Louie’ ‘Excuse My French’ and ‘Liquid Lunch’. By the time she returned for the encore, ‘Back It Up’ everyone was on their feet. Dividing the room in two, Caro got each side enthusiastically singing different parts of the songs, whilst she sang over their acapella.

There’s no doubt she’s a real crowd pleaser or that Brighton loved her. It was also obvious she and her band were really enjoying themselves. Next time she tours the problem will be we won’t have a venue big enough. Her next show after this was at London’s 02 Arena. And you don’t get any bigger than that!

Caro Emerald’s latest album ‘The Shocking Miss Emerald’ is out now

Photo by Images Out Of The Ordinary
Words by Gary Marlowe