This is one I’ve been looking forward to for quite a while. I first saw Imogen Heap play at the Kashmir Klub about 6 years ago, at a ModernWood Management showcase gig, along with Nik Kershaw (who also had Leo Abrahams on guitar, to be featured at the next Recycle Collective gig) and the Dum Dums. I then bought her debut album in the US for some tiny amount of money, and it very quickly became one of the favourite CDs in this house. It’s great.
Last night she was playing Shepherd’s Bush Empire – a pretty huge venue for someone who this time last year was just finishing up recording a self-produced CD. However, between then and now, the track Hide And Seek from that CD, ended up being featured at some critical moment on The OC (I’ve never watched The O.C. – I’ve been to Orange County, and if the TV show is accurate, I can’t imagine in being very interesting, and if it isn’t, I’d just get annoyed with it). It was a huge radio hit all over the place, Radio 1 played it a lot here, and Imogen was right there in the spotlight where she belongs. The album’s lovely, BTW.
So, anyway, the gig – Shepherd’s Bush Empire – a v. large and pretty prestigious gig, though not the friendliest for the musicians or the audience. I’ve ranted here before about venues owned by Carling, and SBE is one of them with the corresponding focus on beer, leading to people talking. At times it was impossible to hear what Imogen was saying between songs, and during the two supports there was a bit of chatter coming from the main floor.
Ah yes, the support – first support was Zoe Keating – someone I’ve had a fair bit of email contact with as she’s a looping cellist, and was, I think the third owner in the world of a Looperlative, after me and Rick Walker. Her solo set was lovely, featuring unprocessed looped Cello (and the best live amplified Cello sound I’ve ever heard – apparently it’s an AKG contact mic, will get the details for any geeks wanting to know). Very lovely stuff.
Second support I didn’t get to hear much of… We arrived just before 8 so we could see Zoe play, and thanks to the craziness of guest-list goings-on, I had a ticket, but TSP’s hadn’t arrived yet ( we were meant to be going with TAFKASB, but she had to go to some punk gig instead…) so I went in to see Zoe’s set (not fair on TSP at all, but as my ticket was on Zoe’s guestlist, it would have been pretty dreadful to miss her solo set), then came out again to find TSP and sort out tickets. Which was all during second support.
Sadly, while my first ticket was seated upstairs, second tickets were standing downstairs only. We’re too old for that, but we did anyway, found a place by the stairs where TSP could see the stage and settled in for an evening of chronic backache.
Imogen came on and did her first number just solo, looping her voice with a Repeater (she so needs a looperlative!) – it was one of the most musical, clever, groovy and entertaining loop performances I’ve ever seen. It’s interesting that often the best loop-based performers are those that don’t make a big deal out of it, but that’s by the by. The rest of the night was a gorgeous mix of solo loopy stuff, solo piano stuff and was the first time she’d showcased the full band, with Zoe being marvellous on cello, plus drums, tuned percussion and a second keyboard player (the second support bloke), augmented by a few things on laptop.
Imogen’s stage presence was somewhat akin to an amiable old-school TV chef, like a glammed up Fanny Craddock cooking up the perfect gig; ‘now we’re going to add some Cello – would that be lovely?’ – sadly the constant chatter of audience members lubed up on nasty overpriced lager from the venue owners meant that a lot of the between song asides were lost, but the whole vibe of just chatting to the audience instead of trying to whoop them into some frenzy was right up my street.
All in all, musically and performance-wise one of the finest gigs I’ve seen in a long time, some of the most sophisticated looping and a whole slew of stunning songs (including one of the duets she did with Urban Species years ago, just her, the rapper from the band and piano – lovely stuff!). I just can’t wait to see her play the Barbican or Festival Hall, or the Albert Hall – somewhere with seats and an audience encourages to STFU during the whole gig.
The After-show party was a bit of a long wait – I really wanted to meet Zoe, so we stuck around for about 45 minutes til she showed up. Well worth the wait, as it’s always lovely to meet online-chums face to face. Also got to say hi to Imogen, who I’ve met on a few occasions before, but she couldn’t remember where. :o)
If she plays near you, DON’T MISS IT.by