Natalie Imbruglia - Heaven, London
I don't believe I've seen Natalie Imbruglia live before. Something in the back of my mind tells me I may have caught a festival performance sometime in the 90's but it's probably old age playing tricks with my memory! Therefore I was delighted to be offered the opportunity to see what the Australian pop pixie was up to these days, shooting along to London's Heaven club to take in Natalie's headlining set.
The was my first visit to Heaven. The venue has hosted successful club nights for decades but has only recently made its mark on the live music scene, putting on the sort of gigs the dearly departed Astoria would hold before its demise. This should have been a show to celebrate the release of Miss Imbruglia's new album Come To Life as it was originally due to appear on the 5th of October. Unfortunately, due to reasons only known to Natalie and her 'people' the album has now been shelved, with a release date of February 2010 now more likely. This is a ludicrous situation as the album is still on track to come out elsewhere in the world in the next few days, leading no doubt to CD rips appearing online.
By the time the UK sees the album the majority of Natalie's hardcore fans will have either picked it up on import or given into temptation, seeking the release out via illicit means. And record companies wonder why they don't make any money!!
Mind you, a lot of the audience assembled tonight were familiar with Natalie's new output, even at this early stage in the album's life as she took to the road back in August to test out several of the songs in a live enviroment, playing very intimate shows, including performances at London's Luminaire and Macbeth venues.
I was in good spirits on entering the club but these were quickly deflated when I was told that photographers were only allowed to shoot the show from the balcony at the very back of the longish room. Normally we'd be granted permission to shoot the first three songs of the show from the photo pit up front but for some reason, this time round Miss Imbruglia didn't want us photographing her up close. I covered the opening trio of songs, leaving my position from up high, feeling generally unsatisfied with the results, grabbed a beer and found a spot to take in the remainder of the show.
It was fairly easy to get a decent place to view the gig as Heaven seemed to be in need of a few more angels! Natalie's smaller shows played to capacity, catering to her devoted fans but she was struggling to fill the room with a more regular audience.
She opened her set with "WYUT" from her forthcoming album. This was a good choice to kick off proceedings as it's relatively frantic, hitting the audience hard. This led into White Lilies Island track "Wrong impression" and another newcomer "Twenty".
Two tracks from Natalie's album Counting Down The Days followed soon after, with Top Ten single "Shiver" and "Sanctuary" rubbing shoulders with new tracks "Fun" and "Lukas" which seemed to be a real crowd pleaser.
Natalie's voice was on good form throughout the show and she communicated a lot with the audience but although there were obviously a few faithful fans in the building a lot of the evening was met with a muted response from the general crowd. Perhaps there was a bit more of a joyful atmosphere closer to the front but there wasn't much fun going on from where I was standing!
The audience perked up a bit mid set when Natalie announced "So this is my first single" but the cheers diminished slightly when we realised she meant "My new single". "Want" was written with a little help from Chris Martin and is one of the more experimental tracks on the album with its pulsing electronic backing making it slightly more dance orientated than Natalie's regular output. I'm not sure if it's a good calling card for Come To Life as it doesn't reflect the general content of the release but it's a decent enough stand alone single. "Torn" actually saw the light of day straight after "Want", generating what would obviously be the biggest response of the night. With another new song in the form of the acoustic led ballad "Scars" following the excitement dwindled again.
Natalie's set drew to a close with the far more uplifting stomper "Cameo", Miss Imbruglia's fave track on the new album (and probably mine too), "My God" and previous single "Wishing I Was There".
The Antipodean actress turned singer had certainly done enough to warrant an encore so returned to the stage for a bit of fun! Sporting a top hat, with band members also dabbling in a bit of 'fancy dress" Natalie looked like a circus ringmaster, or at least one wearing a sparkly dress. Natalie and her gang encored with new album closer "Wild About It". The song brings Feist to mind with its playful, singalong chorus. The evening ended with a run through of another of Natalie's hits "Big Mistake".
The night was a bit of let down for me. Even though Natalie brought her A game, giving many fans a night to remember there was a complete lack of any sort of atmosphere throughout the performance. I suppose there's always a danger of leaving casual fans in the cold when filling a set with a lot of unreleased material though. I can't say I'm an expert where Natalie Imbruglia's back catalogue is concerned but the new songs on offer felt like they could stand proud amongst her other work so I'm sure her album will appeal to a lot of people.
I'm in no desperate rush to catch her again, probably leaving it for another few years (if I actually did see her first time round!). Let's hope Come To Life is released by then.