Imelda May is filled with soul, and she’s literally bursting with sound. Having originally come on to the music scene almost a decade ago with a strong rockabilly sound and image, she has completely transformed for her newest album Life. Love. Flesh. Blood.
Her opening act Andreya Triana had a beautiful sound, and even with the incredibly simple setup of just two people she filled the space. Her voice was extremely moving, bringing back memories of early Amy Winehouse and The Noisettes. ‘That’s Alright With Me’ and ‘Gold’ were particularly strong, and her rendition of The Eurhythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams’ was wonderful.
When Imelda emerged, backed by a full band, she sat down and sang ‘Call Me’, the first track from her latest album. Switching between English and French, I was astounded by how much presence she carried while sitting, illuminated by a single spotlight and accompanied by a guitar. She was almost unrecognisable with her almost-early-KT Tunstall hairstyle, peeking out from a fringe covering half her face.
The thing that almost hits you right in the face when she starts singing is just how much she absolutely loves being on stage, interacting with each member of her band and reaching out to the audience. Her song ‘When It’s My Time’ proved this further. Originally recorded with Jools Holland, her voice rang out through the venue. She was a natural on the stage, telling the audience that the “last time I did a gig here I was 7 months pregnant…”
Listening to May on record is impressive but live she is simply divine
This desire to connect was further shown as half-way through the gig she made every member of the audience turn and talk to someone they did not know, explaining that three members of her Label had been killed in the Bataclan shooting in November 2015, stating that it could happen anywhere and how important it is to interact with each other. This came as a stark reminder that in these safe spaces of expression our safety has been threatened, but she reminded us to choose love over fear, and to keep enjoying ourselves.
Listening to May on record is impressive but live she is simply divine, and she managed to switch between her more ballad-like tunes, and her rocking soul tracks, coming to the centre of the venue to perform her acoustic versions, and later rocking out to one of her first popular tracks ‘Mayhem’. For a final treat she brought out Bob Geldof and Ronnie Wood to perform alongside her, singing The Animals’ ‘I’m Crying’ with Geldof rocking the mic and the harmonica, and Wood rocking the guitar. After an encore prompted by stamping feet the night finished with a rendition of ‘Teenage Kicks’ which had everybody dancing.
May’s new album is filled with powerful and lyrical song-writing, and provides the backdrop for a powerful musical transition. If you get the chance to catch her live it’s a must, no doubt about it. This album shows a softer side, with some truly heart wrenching songs like ‘Should’ve Been You’, ‘Human’, and ‘Black Tears’. I personally, can’t wait till she graces the stage again.
Imelda May’s new album Life. Love. Flesh. Blood. can be bought on Amazon here.
Image: Eddie Otchere