Home > Reviews > Live Reviews > 22/05/2017 – Imelda May, Birmingham Symphony Hall

22/05/2017 – Imelda May, Birmingham Symphony Hall

Lisa Ward


It feels impossible to look back on Monday night and not think of the travesty in Manchester. Yet just a few hundred miles away and just an hour before the bomb exploded, Imelda tells us how she lost members of her crew in the Bataclan attacks. Her voice breaks before she begins Love and Fear and it’s hard not to allow tonight’s memory to be one of grief, with this raw emotion carrying throughout Imelda’s set. 

Tonight is focused on Imelda’s newer tracks, with the likes of Human showing a more ernest side to her sound. Gone are the big rockabilly numbers, and in their place are a mix of honesty, vulnerability, and at times full on rock sounds. The departure from her earlier work is not a negative one however, and tonight shows that Imelda has the capacity to reinvent and reestablish herself as something more than a rockabilly artist. 

At times she channels the soulful vibe of Adele and Amy Winehouse in Black Tears and When It’s My Time, elsewhere the double bass in Sixth Sense moves it closer to her trademark sound, but for me it’s the pop rock of Should Have Been You and more grungy The Longing which show her playful side. Whilst old classics like Big Bad Handsome Man and Johnny Got A Boom Boom get the crowd to their feet, it feels like the accolade is misplaced and for me the highlights come in the form of How Bad Can a Good Girl Be and Bad Habit. 

At times it feels like Imelda is not quite sure what sound to focus on, the start of the night featuring the softer songs before she ramps up the tempo and volume for the second half. That being said, by the end of the set it becomes clear that Imelda is in fact still able to captivate and command her crowd, lulling us in at the start with the more earnest, heartfelt offerings, before kicking us in the gut in the second half with the bass heavy numbers.

Nevertheless, it’s the autobiographical The Girl I Used To Be which feels like it summarises Imelda’s journey to date, and as she sings “life kicked in with all its might, but my strong heart wouldn’t break” it’s clear she’s come out the other side more determined than ever to make her name in the world. In reflection the next morning I can only sit and hope the young women who were at the Ariana Grande show are able to look at the likes of Imelda for inspiration to keep fighting in the fact of adversity.