January 16, 2006

Live review: Imogen Heap, Towson MD, January 15, 2006

UPDATE: Consumption Junction filmed Immi's ballad version of "Let Go". See it now!

I had no idea
Imogen Heap was touring until I read it on Arjanwrites. Thank God, because I managed to get a ticket at the last minute for this show that was, voila!, on a Sunday night before a holiday. And this is what happened...

Immi's first song of the night, Just for Now, made two things clear: 1) that she would be able to pull off a show on her own and 2) that her voice is just as good live - it's a highwire act of octaves that you keep thinking will go out of control, but it never does. In fact, she seems more comfortable in her highest range, which maybe only your dog can truly hear. Anyway, Just For Now was revamped as a lovely keyboard ballad with slight changes to the melody. Beautiful. She even did the sniff sniff thing for the "something is burning" part of the song. I hope she does some sort of itunes exclusive live set so I can get this reversion on my iPod.
Her next song was Goodnight And Go (
my fave song of 2005) and that started with a hilarious stray sample she had used earlier for some radio thing - all the sudden there were these wailing Immis and she jumped back and said "Oh no!" before starting the song over. The glitches during the show were amusing and she handled them with aplomb. During Loose Ends she forgot her lyrics several times and the audience fed them to her. She didn't let that lapse scare her - I have seen performers forget one song and then pretty much lose it for the rest of the show.

She introduced her "band" early in the show, with the same effect as person who lives in an efficiency taking you an apartment "tour." She, like opening act Zoe Keating explained a lot of the technology: her parrot (echo), her "Many Me's" which layered her voice to sound as if there were many Immi's, her pounding bass, her laptop, etc. She had on vocoder-type thing that allowed her to duplicate the album sound of her beautiful, bold single Hide And Seek which has no instruments other than her voice, layered and processed.

Imogen's stage persona is kind of Crazy English Chick, especially with her Edward Scissorhands hair, with little stuff popping out of it. She chats with the audience a lot and mumbles and makes faces - it's endearingly geeky, especially considering how powerful her songs are. I'd also never noticed how English she sounds when she's singing - that's a big component of her vocal style, because so many artists lose their accents when singing.

It seemed like many of the songs were turned into ballads for this show. I guess I would have liked to hear her use more of the beats and throbbing bass she clearly had in her arsenal. Frou Frou's Let Go worked really well as a ballad and, of course, made all the teenyboppers scream. Clear The Area, however, was done on this odd little wooden box (very Bjorkian) and I think that would have benefited from a more danceable approach.

Her opening act, the aforementioned Zoe Keating (see below), joined her to play cello on several songs, including what I would say were the two big epics of the show, the new Narnia song I Can't Take It In and Have You Got It In You - the latter with an extended opening that built and built in intensity. Another highlight was a lovely version of Frou Frou's It's Good To Be In Love which really brought out the lyrics to that song.

She gave a cute explanation of how one song (pretty lullaby called Sleep) was her quote-unquote "last song" of the evening and then she would "pretend to leave" and we would cheer and she would come back out for a few more. Her closer was The Moment I Said It a song which seemed to reserved the hardest, most mountain-climbing vocals for the final song. Beautiful, especially with the bye bye bye bye ending.

I suspect Imogen will be back again for this CD - the tour is sold out with almost no press and I think she could probably fill 9:30 or the Black Cat in DC. The Reicher Theatre in Towson, by the way, is a shit venue. The sound was okay, but it was really uncomfortable and hard for most people to see. I will do a separate post on the audience because it ties in with something I am working on for work. Suffice it to say, NetGen kids need to learn how to fucking pay attention and absorb a performance, not tinker with technology throughout the show.

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