Imelda May Sparkles At Sold Out Birmingham Show
A packed Symphony Hall in Birmingham gave Irish star Imelda May a deserved standing ovation at her show tonight, the 13th night of her 20 date UK tour. Singing songs from her current smash hit album “Life. Love. Flesh. Blood”, which flew into the official UK album chart and reached number five, topping the UK Americana chart, Imelda and her band really were on top form.
Critics have hailed her album as “the album of her life” and “a hugely effective, beautifully crafted reboot that should open up new audiences and point to future triumphs”. The album debuted at No.2 in her native Ireland, with the highest first week sales of Imelda’s career.
The former Rockabilly Queen changed her hairstyle, her look and her musical style, to write autobiographical and revealing songs about her life and the recent break-up with her husband Darryl Higham. This the first tour without him by her side on lead guitar.
Howard Mills of the Americana Music Association UK stated, “Imelda May has become a firm favourite with the Americana community in the UK, adding a touch of glamour as a presenter at our Awards show this year. We are over the moon to see her fabulous new album hit the top spot on the Official Americana Albums chart.”
Imelda has had a jam-packed period of promotion around her new record – Imelda joined the Guardian for a webchat where she discussed a range of topics and questions sent in by fans including what it is like to learn that icon Bob Dylan is a fan of her music, followed by a rammed HMV in-store on Oxford Street. There she performed an acoustic set of material from her new album. She performed live on Chris Evans BBC Radio 2 show – performing tracks including a brilliant cover of U2’s ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I Was Looking For’.
A string of shows in the US and Canada in June follows her triumphant UK tour which included a date at the famous London Palladium,. She will play three US dates as support to Elvis Costello, as well as her own headline shows.
‘Life. Love. Flesh. Blood’ is one of the most critically acclaimed albums of this year. Praised by publications including Q, Uncut and Mojo (“A powerful new direction”), The Sun, The Mirror to the Mail On Sunday (who made it Album Of The Week, gave it four stars and stated: “Great albums tend to be growers, but this one grabs you at first acquaintance”). Support also comes from The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph (comparing it to Bob Dylan’s classic album ‘Blood On The Tracks’) alongside support from US industry publications Rolling Stone and Billboard Magazine, as well as UK tastemaker music publications from The Arts Desk to The Four Oh Five.
The record is produced by the legendary T Bone Burnett, who said of Imelda: “I’ve never met anyone quite like Imelda May. She is full of life. When I first happened onto her music, she was a punky Irish Rockabilly singer with a great band. I was intrigued by her deep feeling for and understanding of that American art form, much of which, of course, had originated in Ireland. When I ran across her several years later, she had gone through a change of lives and was writing about it with a wild intensity and singing about it in the most open hearted way. I was inspired by her honesty and her generosity, and I continue to be intrigued.”
Recorded over seven days in Los Angeles, the album features musical contributions from guitar hero Jeff Beck (who plays guitar on the heart-wrenching single ‘Black Tears, which was A-listed at BBC Radio 2), piano legend Jools Holland (on ‘When It’s My Time’) and an accomplished group of backing musicians including the core trio of guitarist Marc Ribot (Tom Waits, Elvis Costello), drummer Jay Bellerose (Robert Plant and Alison Krauss) and bassist Zach Dawes (The Last Shadow Puppets, Mini Mansions).
New Direction For Imelda
One of Ireland’s biggest exports has found a new groove, presenting the most personal and intimately autobiographical album she has ever written. It marks a new direction for May who, in the time since her 2014 release ‘Tribal’, ended her marriage of eighteen years.
Imelda May’s new sound sits firmly outside of any sharply defined genre box, widely spanning blues, rock, soul, gospel and jazz. ‘Life, Love, Flesh, Blood’ breathes new life into a classic sound, with Imelda’s powerhouse vocal as distinctive as ever, cementing her position as one of the strongest vocalists of her generation. The singer herself describes the record as her most “honest” yet. Imelda’s life changed considerably in the run up to recording, and this is documented in the only way she knew how. “It’s therapy, like keeping a diary that a lot of people read. Some of my favourite songs don’t say much, but they reveal everything.” Imelda explains.
Imelda May, born and raised in Dublin, has become one of Ireland’s most celebrated female artists in history. Discovered by Jools Holland, who asked Imelda to support him on tour, Imelda has gone on to perform alongside legendary artists including Lou Reed, Bono and Smokey Robinson and can count high profile artists including Bob Dylan (who recently revealed he is a fan of Imelda, in a rare interview) and Bono among her fans.
- Support to Imelda and her band tonight was from Jack Lukeman.
All photos: Jason Sheldon
Words: Simon Redley