Herald.ie 21 June 2014 12:00 AM
She needed this gig, you know. Imelda May wouldn’t be so bold as to suggest she lives a boring life, but when you’ve spent the last two months talking about shows and playing very few, your feet start to get itchy.
One too many questions about how a girl from the Liberties discovered rockabilly can take their toll. “We had radios,” grins Imelda, running us through the pains of album promo. Indeed, she’s put the hours in. Album number four, Tribal, cracked the Irish and UK top-five. A worldwide tour starts here. “Welcome home!” shouts a fan. Imelda gushes. “How’s your little one?” she responds (you can take the girl out of the Liberties…). Friends and neighbours have gathered on the balcony. At one point, her dad takes a bow. She’s used to it. What she isn’t used to, though, are punters showing up wearing Imelda May masks. “I don’t think I like that!” she gasps, visibly freaked at having spotted herself in the crowd. Best not look behind her, so (a huge backdrop, featuring Imelda’s face grafittied onto a brick wall, looms over the band).
Donned in a liquorice candy-coloured dress, her famous blonde quiff securely intact, Imelda (39) is still the queen of rockabilly, but it seems she’s keen to expand her palette. The rock star Imelda, all “wild woman” wolf howls (Psycho), bodhran beating (the super Johnny Got a Boom Boom) and boisterous, sing-along choruses (It’s Good to Be Alive), hasn’t gone away. But the softer side to this Irish songstresses that knocks us out. riot Kentish Town Waltz, an ode to hard times past, is a gorgeous breather. Little Pixie, based on a poem her brother wrote for her daughter Violet’s Christening, follows suit. Earlier this week, we’re told, the toddler ran riot with a pen in a Spanish hotel room. “She’s rock n’ roll, she trashed the hotel!” declares Imelda, proudly.
Her sublime and wonderfully spirited vocal is what we came to hear, and Imelda makes for a suitably ecstatic performer, too. But this is a group effort. Like a burlier Gene Vincent, Imelda’s guitarist husband, Darrel Higham’s spiralling fretwork is sensational. Unsurprisingly, Higham and his wife spark off one another throughout. Elsewhere, Al Gare plays a mean double bass, Dave Priseman adds a touch of brass and drummer Steve Rushton has, indeed, earned the nickname Animal’. Towards the end, Al breaks out a ukulele and the Clew Bay Pipe Band make an appearance. Yep, Imelda is mixing it up. Good to have her back. HHHHI