The Level Sprits, the first of two support acts, were up first. Fronted by the wonderful Molly Jean Morrison, the band were very much in the rockabilly/early rock and roll style of music, and a thorougly enjoyable short set and a good compliment for the main act.
Perth band Simon Kelly And The Lonely Wives were next. While enjoyable and inoffensive, their style was highly derivative of the likes of John Butler and every other sensitive New Age man with an acoustic guitar. As they said in Star Wars “nothing to see here, not the droids you’re looking for, move along!”
By this time, the venue was starting to fill up. The concert was sold out. Imelda May and her band graced the stage around 11pm. Imelda is talented and has an amazing voice. This is a band that definitely wear their influences on their sleeves, demonstrated early in the set by a wonderful version of the Howlin’ Wolf track “Lonely Boy”.
However, this might have been either an off night or the band are still trying to find some sense of identity in the live form.
About four songs in, all of which were thoroughly enjoyable, the very talented band decided to do some down tempo, country influenced numbers. While performed very well by all concerned, the band all but lost the interest of the crowd. The sound of chatter among the punters was almost drowning out the band. It took a long time for the crowd to become interested and engage again with the act, almost at the point where the main set was at its end. This was definitely a case of bad choice of material; this was a classic Friday night crowd, ready to sing, dance and drink.
The band relied way too heavily on cover versions; almost half the set were covers. It’s fine to display one’s influences and where they’re coming from in a musical sense. However, the amount of cover versions the band did was inexcusable. You could see a cover band at your local doing the same thing!
Finally, another problem was unfortunately Imelda May herself. As mentioned before, she definitely has a good voice and a charming stage presence and persona. The unfortunate thing that became obvious during the night is that, in a live format, she tends to both screech and scream rather than sing and is given, at times, to Christina Auguilera-style over singing. After a while, this becomes tiresome to listen to. Apart from the occasional backing vocals from a few of her band members, she was carrying the vocals on her own. Perhaps a few backing singers would work better for the band in performing live.
There were a few times where Imelda tried the call and response trick with the crowd. The first time worked okay, the second time was during a cover of the Gloria Jones made famous by Marc Almond in Soft Cell song ‘Tainted Love’. The second time felt very forced and cheesy. The crowd just were not into it. The second time she was doing this, Imelda cheekily told a few people in the back to shut up while she was singing. That’s never a good sign at a concert.
This was by no means a terrible gig, all band members were wonderful musicians and sounded great. This was especially evident when they played “Mayhem”, “Psycho” and particularly a storming version of “Johnny Got A Boom Boom”. Unfortunately, these were the last three songs of the set. They were, to this scribe, a frustrating glimpse of how great a set this could have been.
– Neil Evans