“Here’s my second song disclaimer of the night,” Hemming told a still filling in crowd at Strathmore’s Music Center this past Wednesday night. “All my songs are really sad. So it doesn’t go up from here, I’m sorry.” While the emotional content of Hemming’s songs did not change much from that point, what did change—what did “go up from there—was the audience’s captivation by the young songstress. Armed with her guitar, a vintage army jacket, a demonstrated melodic and harmonic sensibility, and a refreshingly quirky demeanor, Hemming waged quite the successful campaign to win the hearts and minds, or at least enthusiastic applause, of the Strathmore crowd.
Filling the cavernous space of a venue like Strathmore’s Music Center is a heroic task for orchestras, big bands, and other various sized groups but alone the cathedral-like space—or as Chris Cornell joked later that night “some Star Wars, council chamber type room”—and so appeared Sisyphean to a solo acoustic performer. Hemming, real name Candice Martello, did sound a bit hollow when she first began her hushed delivery into the microphone, she quickly adapted to the space by revealing her sheathed musical prowess. Songs like “Hard On Myself” and “Counting Stones” allowed Hemming to demonstrate her soon-to-be-earned place in the lineage of Alannis Morissette-derived singer/songwriters, Torres is one of these contemporaries, but other numbers let her fill the cavernous space with the cannonball force of her belting voice. In this regard, Hemming is uncommon amongst the Jagged Little Pill lineage, able to conjure the hushed tones of the open mic just as easily as she channels Florence Welch’s arena-ready aural assault to reach every nook of the music center. Bringing in the hints of bluegrass/blues holler and twang is ingrained in every thread of her vocal chords, the singer/songwriter often let the moments of Welch-like wailing open up the full range of her emotional palette. Throughout her show, the vocalized melodies were eerily echoed by the cavernous space making it sound as if she’s employed a cadre of background singers. But even more eerily appropriate, especially due to the songs’ subject matter and mood, these echoes almost seemed to project ghosts of her former selves and her friends along stage with her. It was chilling to witness.
There was a moment in her song “Vitamins” where Hemming looked out onto the concert hall as if the audience was not even there: that is how intensely she engages in the world of her songs. Some musicians perform because they want to, others perform because they need to: Hemming is clearly in the latter category. But as the jokes throughout the show, and briefly highlighted at the beginning of this piece, showed, Hemming can bring quite a bit of joy onstage. The mood of her songs did, in fact, rise at the end when she closed with the major key number “Some of My Friends.” Instead of melancholy, Hemming ended the show on notes of triumph, hope, and defiance. In this act, Hemming reminded us, as music has a habit of doing, that there is light and hope at the end of that dark tunnel.
- Hard On Myself
- I’ll Never Be the Man For You
- Counting Stones
- Paper Crane
- Some of My Friends