By Caroline Delaney
It’s the sheer energy that gets you. Imelda May multitasks like a real livewire — she lashes out credit to singers and songwriters; she reminisces about childhood picnics; she jokes about clearing up the havoc wrought by her little girl armed with a marker in a hotel room; she struts around the Marquee stage on her extremely high heels like an ultra-glamorous dressage pony — and above all the lady sings.
From her heartfelt It’s Good to be Alive to the sultry Wicked Way Imelda May just delighted the packed Marquee. Her own delight in performing was evident too: she shrieked at the thought of standing on the same stage as Tom Jones a few nights before; and you felt her excitement when the lighting crew illuminated the whole marquee for a few seconds and she could see just how many people were there to hear her.
Imelda classics such as Johnny got a Boom Boom had thousands dancing and singing along and sizzlers such as Hellfire Club made time fly. She did bring the tempo down occasionally — probably a necessity in the hot marquee — when she eased into the intimate and luscious Kentish Town Waltz; or when she performed Little Pixie, a lullaby to her baby adapted from a poem written by her brother.
Imelda’s iconic style was mimicked by many at Saturday night’s gig — her trademark quiff was recreated on fans ranging from six and seven-year-old girls right up to grown-ups. And there were super-high stilettos, swingy skirts and jewels galore. When a trunkful of Imelda’s own gowns was stolen earlier this year, young Hannah Gahan wrote to the singer offering her own swing-style confirmation dress as a replacement. Imelda was so touched she invited Hannah up on stage to take a bow, allowing everybody admire the very pretty frock. “I coulda had that dress,” she remarked as Hannah walked back to her seat. Hannah wasn’t the only one to share the stage with Imelda — the sweet folky notes of Clew Bay were superbly enhanced when the Clew Bay Pipe Band marched onto the stage shortly before 11pm. Then it was back to a whimsical and lyrical version of Blondie’s Dreaming. No wonder people didn’t want this gig to end.