Righto-well I survived London (just about) and this week I’ll be getting back into the swing of things workwise and blogwise so to kick things off here’s a reprint of my review of the Imelda May gig that ran in Fate.
Imelda May at the Mandela Hall, Belfast
Walking into the Mandela Hall tonight is a bit like stepping out of Doc Brown’s Delorean from Back to the Future and going straight into the 1950’s. To the left and right of us there are quiffs, polka dots and victory rolls everywhere (and that’s just the men) and the joint (we believe that’s the official rockabilly word for it) is packed with people all eager to see Dublin chanteuse Imelda May strut her stuff. Loved by the likes of Jools Holland, the Glastonbury organisers and, er, the Loose Women, the singer is possibly one of the most naturally gifted singers this writer has ever seen. From the first song (‘Feel Me’) everything looks so effortless for the star and her backing band (comprising of a double bass, trumpet, stripped down drum-kit and a pretty sexy looking Gretsch) are first class.
Playing material culled from her hugely successful album ‘Love Tattoo’ our Imelda can croon with the best of them, treating us to some of the best old school rock ‘n’ roll songs of the decade. ‘Love Tattoo,’ Paranoid’ and ‘Big Bad Handsome Man’ (allegedly written about this reviewer…) all hit the mark and the crowd are loving it. But it’s not just about hand claps, fingers snaps and Eddie Cochran-esque guitar licks-our leopard print clad heroine can belt out a ballad with the best of them. ‘Knock 1,2,3,’ a spooky song about dead lovers, is so quiet you can hear a pin drop (or, in this reviewer’s case, three pissed up girls with Bettie Page fringes ordering Bacardi Breezers in the adjacent bar). Imelda, the consummate frontwoman, coos the lines, drawing us into a story about ghosts with broken hearts and it’s one of the best songs of the night.
The singer is also getting good at the onstage patter too, describing ‘Smotherin’ Me’ as a song about a bloke who was “doing her head in” and by set closer ‘Johnny Got a Boom Boom’ she has everyone won over. At the start of the tune, the multi-talented songwriter picks up a bodhran (just in case you didn’t attend a Christian Brothers or Convent school-that’s a traditional Irish drum) and adds a unique spin on a classic sound. Possibly the best moment of the night was the appearance of the supremely cool Jerry Fish though, who duetted with Imelda on the Johhny Cash/June Carter tune ‘Jackson’ (as well as a well received ‘Ring Of Fire’) but it’s Ms May’s final number, a rockabilly-tinged rendition of ‘Tainted Love,’ which blows us all away. This was one timewarp we’d love to do again, and again, and again.