Live Music Review: Rumer at the Academy, Dublin

Like the too-perfect smile of a 1950s housewife, Sarah Joyce’s upbeat pop offers glimmers of something darker just beneath a flawless surface. 

Live Music Review: Rumer at the Academy, Dublin

While the British singer’s voice, silky like luxury chocolate, verges on immaculate, her manner hints at endless melancholy. Her music is formally upbeat, yet weirdly exhausting to hear. It doesn’t take long for the chirpiness to turn oppressive.

In concert, the 33-year-old — she settled on the stage name ‘Rumer’ during her decade as a waitress in London — seemed determined to live up to her reputation as the reincarnation of 1970s easy-listening acts, such as The Carpenters. A faded rug was laid on the stage, while her keyboard player, just to the left, maintained a slightly chilling grin through the evening. It was a surprise that nobody had arrived with a fondue set.

Rumer was generally at ease. This might be considered faintly shocking. After her debut album took off in 2011, she found the pressure of touring too much. She had panic attacks in her dressing room, then would block out the performance itself. Some of the most momentous nights of her life have thus been expunged from memory — she recalls only the jitters and the dread.

It took until last year for Rumer to accept success might not be the worst thing that could befall a struggling singer.

Relocated to America and happily married, she recently confidently returned with Into Colour, her third LP, and she seemed most comfortable performing songs from it at The Academy: ‘Intro (Return of Blackbird)’ was sweet and lilting; ‘Dangerous’ and ‘Reach Out’ swelled with warmth, even as Rumer’s deft delivery took the sting out of lyrics that, on paper, might have come off as angst-slathered.

But it was on covers of Hall and Oates and prog-era maverick, Todd Rundgren, that she visibly enjoyed herself. Perhaps unencumbered by any responsibility to sing from the heart, Joyce threw her head back and crooned ecstatically. In interviews, Rumer still comes off as deeply troubled by fame and the exigencies of life as a touring musician. It was good to see her finding a little catharsis.

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