The Sugar Club, Dublin
You have to wonder whether NEeMA will ever get tired of being referred to as Leonard Cohen’s protegee. On one hand, if you’re going to be anybody’s protegee, there are certainly worse names to pick out of a hat: Pete Doherty, perhaps, or Amy Winehouse. On the other, a connection with one of the most revered songwriters of all time can only mean an inferiority complex is imminent.
The Montreal native is not well-known in this part of the world, particularly since her most recent album, Watching You Think(which Cohen co-produced), has only been available via iTunes until now. Nevertheless, the stifling venue is comfortably full and the candles on each table provide a suitably dim cabaret background to these easy-listening songs.
Backed by three capable musicians, NEeMA’s smoky sigh of a voice is initially a beguiling force, entwining itself around the album tracks Romeo Julietand Unspokenand setting the mood for a downbeat evening. Yet the singer’s often heavy-handed lyrical turn of phrase jars with her suave vocals, while her between-song banter, much of it relating to her time in Ireland many years ago (complete with the obligatory “Conas atá tú?” spiel and a hokey singalong), is a little cloying at times.
That said, there are several covers that work well during the set. Bruce Springsteen’s The Ghost of Tom Joadis passable, Charles Aznavour’s Emmenez-Moiis a highlight, while NEeMA doffs her cap to her mentor with an adept cover of Avalanche. You get the impression that NEeMA would very much like to be the Next Big Thing, but she’ll have to push past superior artists such as Rumer first, with or without Cohen by her side.