Review: Imelda May still the Girl She Used to Be with the audience on their feet

Imelda May on stage on night three of her LIFE. LOVE. FLESH. BLOOD tour Picture: Celia Bartlett

Imelda May on stage on night three of her LIFE. LOVE. FLESH. BLOOD tour Picture: Celia Bartlett - Credit: Celia Bartlett

Cambridge Corn Exchange was the venue for the third night of Imelda May’s 2017 Tour, on May 6, following the release of her fifth album Life. Love. Flesh. Blood. in April.

The sell out gig brought along fans young and old, some turned out in the rockabilly style for which Imelda May had been recognised. However, she has had a dramatic change to her looks since her last album Tribal in 2014, with a dark heavy fringe replacing the trademark two-toned quiff. This coincided with a change of sound with the release of her first single from the new album, Call Me, and with which she opened the concert. Gone was the rockabilly beat, replaced by a from-the-heart ballad and more soulful melody, setting the tone for the evening.

One by one, May and her band picked through every song from the new album, dotted with the odd favourite, where she encouraged the crowd to “Go mental!” but as often experienced at this venue, the Cambridge crowd remaind polite and reserved. Throughout the evening, May would give a little insight into the song about to be played: “I wrote this while walking the dog” she said of Levitate, a melody that could almost come from a Bond movie.

Then, with the rock beat of Leave Me Lonely it was the point where May felt she had to explain “Many have said I have changed but I’ve just gone back to my roots...thanks for sticking with me.”

At the call of “Last chance to freak out, go for it!” the Cambridge crowd finally got to its feet with the 2010 track Mayhem followed by her most famous song Johhny Got a Boom Boom and which, as anticipated, drew the biggest cheer of the evening.

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Coming right back down from that high, the audience was treated to May’s most heartfelt and moving performance of the evening, closing the set with The Girl I Used To Be. Was she the girl she used to be? She had wooed back those expecting to see the Imelda she used to be, and reinforced the enjoyment of the newcomers who knew little of the girl who went before. Returning for the encore, the powerful Imelda May came forth once more, in the great cover she had previously done with Jeff Beck, Walking in the Sand, finally closing the show with Game Changer.

Was this show a game changer? Yes, it was but it may take a little more time for everyone to accept and feel completely comfortable with those changes.

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An honourable mention for Jack Lukeman, a man with an amazing voice who did a fantastic job in what is always a difficult task of support - what an incredible rendition of Ol Man River!

Celia Bartlett

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