Water Pageant have the ability to carve atmosphere out of none, and tonight they do so with very limited forces. In the few years since seeing them last, they've grown confident in the sound they make – which is conjured using voices, piano, diamond-bright guitar and portentous drum loops.
Main act Emma Pollock's full-blooded band make a huge sound here in the O2 to contrast the intimate in-store at Truck a few hours earlier. She rocks out on electric (is that a windmill I see?), her fantastic Mitch Mitchell-haired drummer flails, and the rest of the quartet swap bass and keyboard-playing duties. As new album In Search of Harperfield relates a turbulent family history and some dark sentiments, I'm pleased to see/hear it presented with such joie de vivre (or joie de jouer), robustness and no trace of self-indulgence – often, fuzzy power-pop in the vein of Graham Coxon or The Cardigans brings unexpected levity.
Even when released with former band The Delgados, Scotland's finest makers of kitchen-sink Disney soundtracks, Pollock's songs always had emotional presence even when the lyrics bypassed logic. Then, as now, part of the fun was the ever-present possibility of a lurch into an improbable minor key, which only Radiohead do as regularly. The intervening decade has left her compositional nous undiminished, and the scope of her songwriting broader – sometimes Nick Cave-like threats creep in, as does occasional gothic imagery, and the single 'Dark Skies' recalls Joni Mitchell while sounding absolutely timeless. The DJ who placed her next to Adele on a songwriters' show? 'Has a bit of an imagination on him' according to our heroine.
Pollock herself seems like loads of fun to be around: full-hearted laughs, very personal anecdotes, playing her loss of setlist as if an unseen jukebox is orchestrating the evening. But she's in control really, obvs. And the set is nicely paced, taking us from full-band thrills with horror-flick piano to an oasis of calm in the form of 'Intermission'. On record, it's a string-laden chamber piece: live and violin-free, intimate guitar, bass and a seasoned torch-singer voice make it shine even more brightly. Seeing this artist live is a reassuring revelation: that with maturity has come ever-increasing power, vocal perfection, and the generosity of spirit that respects her past, shares her insights and refuses to dial down musical adventurousness.