It’s fair to say that if Imelda May was singing trashy pop songs she’d already be a household name in the UK. Unfortunately however rockabilly seems to remain something of a niche throwback and despite a voice that’ll make the hairs stand up on your arms, we’re sitting next to empty seats on both sides. With a triple platinum selling album in her native Ireland though, I doubt she’ll be much bothered.
Whilst the gig lacks throngs of teenage girls trampling over one another, the appreciative noise generated by Imelda fans more than makes up for it and if ever an icon for modern rockabilly were needed, she’d be it. Jet black hair with a bolt of blonde rolled up into a solitary curl, 1950s rock n roll styling and a knock out vocal put the Dublin born singer at the top of her game. As the bass kicks in at the start of her set it’s also clear that the strength of her performances owe as much to a stellar band and whilst they by no means carry her, at times the instrumentation is just as enticing as she is.
Having recently released second album Mayhem in the UK, it was inevitable that the majority of the set would be a showcase of these newer tracks. Whilst I’m tempted to say I’m disappointed because Love Tattoo was a far more solid offering, when she takes on parts of Proud and Humble without a microphone I am instantly glad of it. Forget analysing albums, vocally she is superb. Lowering the tempo halfway through the evening she also grants us the sentient Kentish Town Waltz and Falling In Love With You Again, which is dedicated to a couple in the audience for whom it was their wedding song. Whilst for some the break is too much and they have to be shushed from the front, Imelda succeeds in showcasing the diversity of her talents.
Thankfully for those disruptive members of the audience she then works the tempo back up to close with Psycho, Mayhem, Johnny Got A Boom Boom, Tainted Love and an Elvis cover and, whilst like her latest album there are a few fillers in the set, there can be no question that Imelda May is as strong in her attitude, style, vocal and writing as anyone out there.