Review: Imelda May at the London Palladium By Fiona O’Brien
The release of Imelda’s album firmly established her as a songwriter of quality and depth, but it was at the Palladium that she exhibited her stature as a performer too.
Her new album is her most acclaimed yet and the focus, both in the lyrical matter, and the reviews are on her recent divorce.
During the show she was telling us about the heartbreak of losing two friends from her record company in the Bataclan concert terrorist attack, which left 89 dead. This was probably less than an hour before the carnage in Manchester – at another music venue – where one evil act would leave the world, yet again, frozen in despair.
Imelda’s voice broke as she recalled a priest’s prayers for the victims in France at the time, which spoke of the two emotions of love and fear – not love and hate – being at the heart of a human soul. I chose love, she said before singing The Choice, the beautiful song she wrote after the tragedy, with lyrics which would go on to have an even more powerful poignancy as dawn broke.
Love for Imelda was enormous on the night – even from the petticoated girls with hair in quiffs, who may not have realised that our beautiful Dublin songbird has moved on from her rockabilly days. She has ditched the pencil skirts and leopard print for a sparkly black minidress and boots, and now has a sleek black fringe, iconic enough to rival Claudia’s.
Her style has extended to include soul, gospel, blues, folk and rock, and the tone was set right from the start as she opened not with a raucous crowd-pleaser but with the yearning Call Me, which she sang sitting in shadow at the front.
Reaching out to the audience she shared through lyrics not only the ache of her marriage break-up but the exhilaration of chasing, catching and losing new love.
It Shoulda Been You and Black Tears were painfully sad, while How Bad Can A Good Girl Be and Sixth Sense were downright lusty.
Her performance may have changed – she normally has one man on a mandolin on stage with her for the encore, this time she had four guitars, a keyboard, drum and trumpet – but her voice is as distinctive and gutsy as ever.
Old favourites Big, Bad Handsome Man and Johnny Got a Boom Boom got the crowd dancing but it was autobiographical treats like The Girl I Used to Be that got us thinking, and her words of grief that I can’t get out of my head today.