Home > Reviews > Live Reviews > 04/05/2012 | Imelda May – Royal Albert Hall, London

04/05/2012 | Imelda May – Royal Albert Hall, London

Lisa Ward


If it weren’t for Imelda’s first comment,  ‘there’s a little bit more of me since you saw me last’, I’d be inclined to ignore the fact that she’s 6 months pregnant. It seems irrelevant as she struts around in her trademark heels never missing a note. From the opening bass beat of Pulling The Rug Imelda confirms her place on London’s most sought after stage, resurrecting rockabilly and twisting it in with a modern day vibe, just as she always has.

With tributes to Willie Dixon in her version of Spoonful and covers of Bing Crosby’s Temptation not only is she able to write her own material which boasts stunning hooks, but she also gives a new lease of life to the classics. If Jessie J were watching this show, she’s probably be rejoicing at Imedla’s licks, trills runs and rolls but it’s actually her ability to remain humble and earnest on stage which marks her apart from many others in the industry. Despite the size of the venue, she’s able to connect with her crowd, at times singing back to audience members as if they’re the only person in the room.

It seems fitting then that Humble and Proud is one of the moments of the evening, a song she wrote as ‘a kind of prayer’ it soon captivate the audience to sing and clap along. Elsewhere her husky vocals in Big Bad Handsome Man add breadth to her sound, whilst her a capella start to Knock 1. 2. 3. give a new lease of life to a song inspired by an elderly lady from her nursing home days. It’s unsurprising that the play it safe world of the music industry were sceptical of Imelda’s desire to fuse rock ‘n roll, with jazz and blues, but tonight as her label surprise her with a disc for 400,000 album sales for latest album Mayhem (well beyond the 300,000 required for a platinum disc) it’s clear that the consumers have a mind of their own.

There’s no doubt that this is in part due to her captivating live presence and at the end of the night she runs through Road Runner, Let Me Out, Watcha Gonna Do?, Mayhem and Jonny Got a Boom Boom without so much as a pause for breath. It’s here that the power of Imelda’s band springs to life, with their ability diversity sounds, each song highlighting different aspects of the music, yet still it’s Imelda that holds the show and as the crowd spring to their feet to dance, it’s clear they’re eating out of the palm of her hand.

It’s not until the encore as Imelda sits on top of Al’s double bass to deliver a version of The Ronettes Baby, I Love You with just a ukulele for accompaniment and holds her stomach that I even remember she’s pregnant, and as she moves quickly into her rendition of Tainted Love before rounding off with My Baby Left Me I soon forget again. Throughout the night she not only reconfirm her desire to rework classic songs, transforming them into modern day hits, but marks herself apart as an inventive artist in her own right.


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