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New York Cool - Music

Imelda May
Southpaw
March 3, 2010

Written by Eric Atienza
Photographed by Michael Meyer


Fresh off of her breakout Grammy performance, Imelda May’s east coast tour swept into Brooklyn’s Southpaw. It’s fitting that, after her televised tribute to rock’s past, May would play in a club with rock’s history plastered all over the walls. Album covers and show bills from decades past looked on as she belted out a set of blues and rockabilly to an audience of eager Brooklynites and more than a few transplanted Dubliners.

Unfortunately the price of admission for this show, not counting the low cost of the ticket, was the opening set from Brooklyn’s Madison Square Gardeners. The band’s addition of a country twang to late-90s, mid-tempo, radio-friendly pop-punk was saccharin and uninteresting. The rhythms were boppable but unoriginal, and covered in an artificial, plastic sheen. The only thing saving the group from a Drive-Thru records compilation was guest guitarist Chris Masterson coaxing beautiful tunes from an equally beautiful hollow-bodied guitar. Teen rock has had its heyday, and apparently teen rockabilly is poised to follow.


Imelda May

Thankfully Imelda May and band took the stage next with some truly soulful and emotive tunes. She began in blues mode with a sultry, smoky vocal combined with some filthy guitar riffs that exuded seductiveness and heartfelt yearning. She took turns between pouty flirtatiousness and thoughtful longing while drawing in every ear in the room.

 

Al Gare and Dave Prisman
Imelda May

With a playful “Who wants to hear some rockabilly?” she switched gears into a set of songs that had equal amounts playful swing and electric swagger. Her deep and passionate vocal was an ignition switch that soon had the room roaring to life.

Of course May’s stellar vocal was not the only star of her set. From sax to bass to drums her backing band featured players playing with souls filled with a lifetime of old scratchy records and shows in dark, dank clubs. While Masterson distinguished himself from the Gardeners with some killer licks May’s guitarist far eclipsed him in sheer talent and evocative ability.


Imelda May

Though, for a U.S. audience, it might be jarring to hear May’s Dublin accent in between perfect renditions of blues and rockabilly, her pitch perfect performance should be enough to convince even the biggest skeptics that these tunes are no longer simply American music. The styles are universal, and the sentiments and emotions they contain can be carried by anyone with a heart big enough to hold them and lungs big enough to project them. Imelda May clearly fits that bill.

imeldamay.com

myspace.com/imeldamay1


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