Imelda May

If you scroll through the entire list of artists reviewed on Live on 35mm, you will not come across an Irish one until today. Hope the glamorous Imelda May starts a new trend.

It can be a coincidence, it can be failed photopasses (isn’t it Pogues‘ PR?). It can’t be my taste (I don’t discriminate by country!) and I love Irish music.
One thing is evident, Ireland and his music has visibly been away from the radar for a while. Why?

Today I can’t see no sign of the folk heritage, no bag pipes, tin whistles. No one following Pogues and Waterboys path.

There is no sign of the Irish blues-rock since Rory Gallagher, John Fogerty, Thin Lizzy kind of stuff.

The female voices so big in the nineties, vanished.
Last time I heard of Sinead O’Connor, after 73 farewell to the music scene, came back to go reggae. Enya must be busy doing something with the royalties of 70+ million albums she sold and Cranberries are back being just a sharp red berry good to go with roasted turkey.

The best known of all of them, U2, despite a massive (and outrageous) marketing campaign which tried to sell a mediocre album as a masterpiece, “pressing all the press” over 5 continents, did not manage to make No Line on The Horizon sell half the copies of the previous, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. Fact.
More important, no band seem to follow on the path of who once was the pride of the country. U2 haven’t been cool for a while. The closest thing to U2 I have listened recently is the Airborne Toxic Event single. A band from Los Angeles!

Summing up, I can’t recall any recent Irish artist apart from Snow Patrol, which I doubt are doing Irish music heritage a big favour.

To confirm my theory, Ireland arrives on Live on 35mm after 85 artists from somewhere else without bearing any of the music clichés you would expect from an artist grown-up in Dublin.

What materialised on stage tonight is a pin-up body with a great voice backed by a vintage jazz band playing a nice mixture of rockabilly, blues, skiffles, jazz ballads in a sort of burlesque cabaret setting.

How it comes that such influences, you expect to see in a downtown Vegas hotel in the middle of the fifties opposed to Elvis playing the Caesar Palace, landed in Dublin in 2009 is my unanswered question of tonight’s show.

I can use globalization, risking to become repetitive, I can ponder about the heritage of Irish people moving to USA then coming back, risking to over interpret the reality. I won’t.

Imelda May comes on stage with her distinctive hair cut, a sexy red dress and a very good, professional ensemble of musicians who supports her singing with brilliant arrangements.

The band, driven by a funny-looking bass player on the left and her husband, rockabilly guitarist Darrel Higham, standing on her right work hard to impress and manage to conquer even the ones brought here by some friend.

Imelda May has been playing American Music for years in several bands before getting to be noticed by the media. She knows how to handle these songs, she has a huge repertoire of covers which she interprets very well and she is very experienced to sing them at the right moment of the show to keep the audience up and dancing throughout.

Concert open with Feel me, from her breakthrough album, Love Tattoo but the girl conquers me with the second tune.

Anyone who brings to a stage Little Walter’s My Babe in 2009 has guaranteed my eternal love and respect.
From the audience’s cheering reception, I doubt how many of them know the origin of the song, I am even more convinced that there is nothing but the 12 bar blues to be The eternal music genre.
Having the Devil on your side clearly helps.

A couple of her songs than Patsy Cline country-ish Walking After Midnight highlights her skills in interpretating standards.
Pat Cupp’s Don’t Do Me No Wrong (thanks Wiki!) which is an homage to a Rockabilly father whom her and husband clearly adore.

I prefer when she sings jazz ballads and early blues more than rock’n’roll and skiffles but I guess this is because it fits my taste more than because of the quality of her music.

Another few less known songs before the mid gig big breakthrough.
Her rendition of The Beatles’ Oh Darling had appeared already on a tribute album and Abbey Road session, but tonight she sang it better then ever.

If you want to conquer an English audience, using the Beatles card is the way to go but you also must be very careful. It is like touching God, so respect and innovation have to find a balance. She clearly achieved that.

Now everyone’s is at her feet and another rockabilly digression is accepted with no harm.

While the concert continues, I get caught by a sort of sensual Arabic influenced song, an inspirational allusion to some belly dancing in a burlesque outfit, highlight a guitar duetting with a trumpet. Not quite the same, but I think of Dizzy Gillespie’s bringing African influences into his be-bop. A surprisingly tasty jam.

Next to hit my sensitivity is her self penned ballad Falling In Love With You Again, a love song touching romantic souls, and it appears is plenty of them tonight, singing along the candid lyrics.

“We’ve been together but it seems like forever
But I’m falling in love with you again

You’re my lover, my best friend, but I can’t believe what’s happening
‘Cause I’m falling in love with you again

When you put your hand in mine
Send shivers up and down my spine
Your lips taste soft once more…”

Johnny Got a Boom Boom has the only memorable double bass riff I can think of and closes the main set leaving the entire crowd dancing to its bouncy rhytm.

I am not a fan of encores, they are mostly staged and not spontaneous as they are supposed to be, and it is not exception tonight with two songs alreardy on the setlist from the beginning, but I believe Imelda May must have come out even to improvise something if she didn’t want the entire crowd going to chase her in the dressing room.

She does come back, to please the audience with two huge hits, Tainted Love and then back to the Blues closing with Rollin’ and Tumblin’. Such a classic I don’t think has ever existed a blues musician that hasn’t played it.

Discover Imelda May singing from her [myspace] and [website]

Photo tip

It is probably the place where I shot most concerts, so it is time to speak out my admiration for it.
The Junction is Cambridge second biggest venue, but coming to the amount of music they play in here is clearly the first rock venue in town.

Taking pictures here is perfect. Small enough to have a cosy feeling, big enough to host a photographer’s pit which is easy to reach.
The small stage put you within touching distant with the artists and allows to mount on cameras the wide-angle lenses I prefer.
I rarely use my 85mm or 135mm lens at the Junction, and if I do is to take close portraits of artists’ face.

On the negative side (yes there is one, guys!), the pit has the stickiest floor I ever came across. You almost can’t walk without leaving your shoes stuck to it. Consequences of years of throwing pints.
Don’t leave your bag or jacket on the floor (or even on the barriers). To claim them back from the strong-glue effect that keep them there is going to be tough!

The photopass usually permits to stay in for the entire gig which is a plus getting rare in London. I appreciate it even more because of the moderately elevated platform mixer at the back.
That is a perfect place to keep taking photos of the entire stage with the crowd. (if they let you do which is up to the act management so ask before jumping on that!). It is usually the place where I spend further 10 minutes to finish my last frames of the roll.
Considering that most act playing much bigger London venues comes here to play intimate as well, you should not be surprised to know why I kept it this photographer’s heaven almost as far from central London as Brixton Academy is, for so long.

Last but not least the staff is friendly and always helpful which is useful when the PRs forget to put me on the list, a classic.

~ by Valerio on May 30, 2009.

10 Responses to “Imelda May”

  1. wait wait wait a second! you haven’t mentioned Damien Rice! :O

  2. oh, is he Irish? I didn’t even know, I must have some pics of him somewhere. Most boring concert ever… after Athlete to be sincere.

  3. I saw some video on youtube after reading your post, she’s very glamorous, I agree with you about the band (very funny and professional), the songs are good but there was something wrong.
    In my humble opinion she lacks of talent.
    Nice as a bright day or a fresh drink.
    But very little remains on you after half an hour.
    Original dressing is not enough to have personality.

  4. Well Diamond,
    she clearly will not replace Koko Taylor in the history of blues, but she is good and puts on a live show that is far better than many much more hyped stars I have seen.

  5. My daughter and I enjoyed Imedla May and orchestra last night at Newbury – we will be going again

  6. When will Imelda come to the netherlands?

  7. Hey there,

    Check out this new widget from Imelda May.

    She will be performing at the iTunes Music Festival in London on the 26th July. To get tickets:

  8. little late to this party, but does anyone know what she plays regularly on tour?
    Not much info on her. I have a boot with blues, rockabilly, sleepwalker cover, apache, cry me a river, how high the moon…etc

    If this is a typical set, I will have to cancel prior plans to catch her in Boston next month


  9. hope to see you soon for few drinks

  10. Falling in love with you again – – – I can’t stop playing it! Got video of her with Jools Holland – FANTASTIC!!! Any Karaoke version of this or any other of her songs???

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