How it’s New York: Webster Hall is a New York music venue
How it’s Irish: Imelda May is an Irish artist
She has apparently been called the queen of Ireland by Bono, but I didn’t know a whole lot about Imelda May – other than she was from the Liberties in Dublin, had a unique hairstyle and sang rockabilly. But that all changed on Tuesday when I saw her perform at Webster Hall. A school night an’ all, and the place was throbbing. I’m not sure what constitutes a full house at this non-seated venue, but it was close to full with what seemed like loyal May fans, many of whom were Irish, and Dubs in particular. A sign in the audience confirmed this and caught the singer’s eye when in the middle of her act she read the sign to the audience,
“Are youse comin’ for a pint after?”
to which she laughed and said
“Up the Dubs!”
Her set began with a couple of heartfelt ballads as she sat on a stool in a more indie/singer/songwriter style than I’d expected. Gone was the quiffed hair I had known her for, and in its place was a Joan Jett look and later I was to discover a Joan Jett sound too. The new look is part of May’s metamorphosis after some major life changing events – a divorce, a new baby, and a new musical style on her latest album, “Life Love Flesh Blood.”
A good friend of Bono’s, she talked about a recent dinner she had at his house, where a poem was recited instead of grace before dinner.
The poem focused on the two base emotions – love and fear (not hate as we all assume) – and how pertinent it is that the world is focusing heavily on one of those right now. There is a great line in the song that followed this introduction, “Love and Fear”,
“Good people do bad things and bad people do good things … ”
– one that is still playing in my head days later. Other standouts songs of the evening were “Black tears” and “Should’ve been you”, both sang with a pure, raw intensity.
The mature audience all seemed to be big fans and were wide open to Mays’ invitation for us to introduce ourselves to each other early in the gig after she asked for the lights to be brought down so she could see our faces. She wanted people talking to each other she said and went on to talk about how important it was after Manchester and Paris (a closely known member of her record company was killed in the attack in Paris), and threw in a story of how she’d joined a Trump protest as she was walking by Trump Tower during her New York visit.
The indie girl style didn’t last long before she broke into “Sixth Sense,” a song she wrote about a Nashville man she couldn’t resist with whom she was convinced they’d met in another life their connection was so potent and so instant.
She followed it with “Big Bad Handsome Man,” an audience favorite that caused everyone to sing along to the sexy number, while May gyrated and stomped backed by the seductive sound of the saxophone.
Her rocker self was the part of the concert that had the most power and energy by far and while she has a fantastic voice, her ballads did not stand out particularly for me, so I wonder if indeed she will integrate the two genres because it would be a shame to let the former go.