Live at the Temple Bar Theatre, Dublin
The first I heard about Emmaus was when Phantom Tollbooth publishers Linda and Shari e-mailed me to tell me about having seen them in Chicago. Organizing their own world tour was a good way for the band to gain my attention and, having managed to catch a live show at Greenbelt, I managed to track down a copy of this live recording to review.
This album presents the listener with a distinctive brand of pop-rock. The band appears to have a wide range of influences, from the Celtic music of its homeland to alternative rock to soul and funk sounds. The instrumentalists are first class, and the playing is tight and smooth. They use a wide variety of techniques, some common and some not so, without succumbing to the danger of slipping into cliche.
The band is large--I counted eight band members in the sleeve--and that is reflected in the range of instruments played and the strong harmonies which lead to a layered and textured sound that grabs the attention and holds on tight. As with many live albums, the recording here isn't perfect. There are occasional cases of unwanted feedback and other similar problems, but it sounds totally live with no studio trickery.
Lyrically, the band varies from explicitly Christian material to more universal messages. The lyrics are sometimes a little simple and occasionally repetitive for my tastes but fit well with the music and contain strong, positive messages without preaching.
The first few tracks are strong rockers, complete with distorted guitars and wah pedal. The lyrics for the first track, "Voice In The Silence," seem to give a hint as to the aims of the band:
Give me a river in the desert
Give me some mercy with my justice
Give me love, love, love
while it is probably great fun live, I'm not sure of the wisdom of its inclusion here.
One particularly strong track is the simple "Battle by Battle" which is sung acappella and is a good showcase for the band's use of vocal harmonies, and especially the strong voice of lead singer Joanne.
I will remain yours till you take me home.
And though the night is long and the battle hard
I did not lose sight of your sweet love
Reviewed by James Stewart
What can you say about a band that tours in a twenty-year-old Winnebago
called "Mother Bubba Ship" that's about to break down at any minute? It
take guts and creativity. Something "Rojo" Johnston, the leader of
Emmaus seems to have a lot of. He's a writer for MTV in Europe, which seems
to have taught him how to keep people entertained.
The music would be considered by most to be a blend of pop rock and
alternative music. Those familar with their previous album, Across the
River, will find several of the songs much rockier. The vocals and
instrumentation are very well done, and the lyrics all have a Christian
theme without the usual chiches.