Imelda May at Hampton Court Palace (Gig Review)

Imelda May live @ Hampton Court Palace: 9/10

So I needed a detox from heavy metal after the Download Festival and what better way than to see the gorgeous (and outrageously Irish) rockabilly singer Imelda May at the Hampton Court Festival.

This was allegedly Imelda May’s first show in over a year, but the little lady didn’t seem to be out of practice as she belted her way flawlessly through a 90 minute set, her backing band created a really tight sound (the trumpet player was particularly awesome when he went for his solos) and they all put across a terrific sense of fun.

Review of Imelda May gig at Hampton Court Palace

Review of Imelda May gig at Hampton Court Palace

She gave us a few hits such as title track of the ‘Mayhem‘ record and ‘Johnny Got A Boom Boom’ from ‘Love Tattoo‘ but most of the set actually consisted of (as of yet) unreleased material. She lovingly referred to the audience as her guinea pigs since our reactions were apparently going to be the basis of what songs make it into the upcoming album. A bold move for any artist that few could get away with but apparently Imelda is one of those few. She also alluded to multiple lyric sheets on the floor since she had not completely decided on what verses to use for certain songs yet, although I never saw her refer to them once or fluff a line.

New songs I actually managed to catch the names of included ‘The Hellfire Club’, which was a raw rockbilly/blues number that had classic Imelda stamped all over it but with more of a gritty punch and was really cool. The song itself is based on a less-than-salubrious bar (in other words; a shit hole) in Dublin which was apparently a popular place for devil worshipping back in the day and Imelda’s dad apparently took her for regular family picnics there… to each their own I always say! A couple of ballads were thrown sparingly into the mix one of which was a lullaby she sings to her newborn baby girl and was a definite standout moment of the set.

Despite the large amount of unknown numbers the crowd was absolutely loving it with a lot of people leaving their seats to go and dance in any open space they could find.  I actually want to check this mystery album out when it finally does emerge, as I found myself enjoying the new material more than the older stuff that I already know and love.

Imelda’s songs are short and snappy, so you can cram quite a few into a short space of time.  But she also stopped frequently to introduce a lot of new numbers and the stories behind them. The between song banter was both humble and charming. A fan on stage kept threatening to blow up her skirt (by ‘fan‘ I mean the traditional cooling device, not some raging pervert from the audience) and the whole crowd couldn’t help but laugh when she stated “it’s lucky I pinned my dress down otherwise this would have been a COMPLETELY different show” – adorable!

Anyways, if you have a love for rockabilly or contemporary blues and jazz yet have not discovered Imelda May I strongly suggest you check her material out and if you get a chance see her live!

Review by Al Westlake

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