Imelda May – Live Review – Hull City Hall
By Roger Crow, November 2017
I have one thought when I settle in at Hull City Hall for the second gig in 24 hours: How on Earth is Imelda May going to live up to the banner at the back of the stage?
It features her name and the latest album title: Life. Love. Flesh. Blood. It’s big, unmistakable and despite having been in the business since she was 16, I’m still concerned that the fortysomething diva will struggle to wow me and the masses.
There’s always that feeling that great vocalists do it all in the studio with Vocoders and gizmos to make them sound incredible, but on stage it’s possibly going to be a let down.
It’s also a while since I’ve seen any female solo artist carry a gig, though watching Shirley Manson bring the house down in Texas last year was a sight to behold. Would Ms May have that same power?
Well, she left me gobsmacked during a song with Michael Ball and Alfie Boe on one of their recent ITV specials, so that fear subsides a little. And a few minutes into her gig, any nerves melt away completely.
There’s a huge difference between the mere slip of a woman who introduces herself and her band with those dulcet Irish tones and the enormous voice that emerges. It helps that we’ve just enjoyed a terrific warm up act in Andreya Triana, (her version of Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams’ is a treat).
As Ms May and her band take to the stage, we’re off with tracks from her fifth studio album, Life Love Flesh Blood, and more familiar old favourites.
Whether fuelled by grief for a dying relative or the memory of colleagues and loved ones killed by terrorists in France, Imelda is like a raw nerve at times, and it’s impossible not to share her pain.
It’s obvious her goal is to break down the fourth wall between herself and the audience. She mentions as much during an intimate set sat on stage singing a stripped down take on ‘Inside Out’, and a version of ‘Molly Malone’ that is out of this world.
Obviously May saves the best ’til last with old favourites ‘Johnny Got A Boom Boom’, ‘Big Bad Handsome Man’ and the phenomenal ‘Mayhem’.
There’s little wonder most of the audience is on their feet rocking out with her by the last third, while a version of ‘Teenage Kicks’ with returning act Andreya goes down a storm.
Sat up in the gods, I feared the venue was too big for such a relatively slight person. Truth is, a venue the size of Hull wouldn’t be big enough for that voice, or personality.
Imelda May is a force of nature; a brilliant musician with an incredible voice who, if there’s any justice, will get a shot at the next Bond theme.
I envy those who get to see her at the Albert Hall in a few days, especially as her band are as outstanding as the main attraction.
On a freezing November night, One of Dublin’s finest tunesmiths just melted a few hundred hearts, and helped create an unforgettable night.
Top image: Dan Reid, Other images: Shirlaine Forrest