It was an agonising six-year wait for 'Fight Like A Girl'; the spectacular third album from Victorian-industrial singer and violinist Emilie Autumn; but I'm sure all Plague Rats (fans) will agree that it was utterly worth it. Myself, I've only been immersed in the world of The Asylum for two and a half years but, having completely falling in love with the new record, I felt that I couldn't miss a chance to see this new musical journey on stage before my very eyes.
And so I travelled to London where I stood in the rain for a good 40 minutes, my perfectly styled hair totally destroyed, outside the Shepherd's Bush Empire waiting to take my level one balcony seat for what I knew would be one hell of a show. Chamber music and World War I ditties were played as we waited for the queen of crazy to appear on the stage in her pink corset and large Mohican hair piece (the latter only stayed there for the first song). She opened the set with an energetic rendition of her album's title single, waving her F.L.A.G. flag over the heads of the standing crowd. It's probably the most distinctive track of the album - it's a lot more industrial and electronic than the others which would not sound out of place in a musical, and truly kicks the show off with a bang as she gracefully climbs and swings on the scaffolding apparatus in the middle of the stage. Her performances of 'Take The Pill' and 'Time For Tea' - possibly the heaviest of the entire set - were wonderfully dramatic, as her occasional backing singers Veronica Varlow and Captain Maggots (who make up The Bloody Crumpets) restrained her arms with bandages as Emilie flailed about in anguish. An exquisite actress, who held the entire Empire's rapt attention.
After the first few songs, Captain Maggots came on stage to introduce Emilie in what came to be a bit of a comedy act with Emilie secretly egging on the audience to repeatedly applaud her to Maggots' increasing annoyance. The pair then introduced burlesque star Veronica Varlow, who performed a short dance routine, wafting her feathers flirtatiously and raising the temperatures of everyone in the room. This was later followed by Captain Maggots' reading out the beginning of some naughty online fan fiction as Veronica and Emilie acted it out. After Emilie proceeded to tell her audience that she was disgusted with what fans had been writing, Veronica decided to get revenge by making out with a female member of the audience. It was a little awkward after a while, but that's probably because I'm a bit of a prude and was maaaaybe a little jealous.
There was a brief interlude midway through the set which was followed by 'Girls! Girls! Girls!'. Emilie had donned a flat cap and a waistcoat as she played the part of a Victorian freakshow host, soliciting the exploitation of mentally ill women as no more than zoo animals. It's probably the song that one could most see as part of a musical score, and she did amazingly well at singing it considering the fast-pace and accompanying dance movements; she was panting so much at the end that I got genuinely concerned! She bounced back though, and her renditions of the heart-wrenching 'Gaslight' and the gripping, storylike 'The Key' almost brought tears to the eyes of everyone around me.
The only song she sang that wasn't from the album was 'The Art Of Suicide' from previous offering 'Opheliac'. It's a popular one, and she sampled the tune for her new album's track 'Goodnight, Sweet Ladies'. It's definitely fitting with the theme of insane asylums though, and much of the audience sang along. One of her final songs was 'One Foot In Front Of the Other' which was one of the only positive messages of all the songs on the set and had Veronica and Maggots marching along to the beat impressively synchronized. The last song was the aforementioned 'Goodnight, Sweet Ladies' which was appropriate and very sad because I'm sure I wasn't the only one who didn't want it to be over. An absolutely brilliant night and I can't wait to see what she does next. Emilie Autumn truly is a fine artist whose unique live shows never fail to completely absorb her audience. The sheer effort put into each performance is something you have to see to believe; she's a woman with stamina, with drama and marvellous cheekbones.