Imelda May – Cardiff Civic Centre

Under my tres chic day-glo orange high-vis media jacket I’m sporting a flak jacket. Not to protect me from the chav gangs who are rioting down by the waltzers, oh no, this is to protect me from Imelda’s management. Last time I dared to write about Ms May for the Fix I was all but threatened with concrete boots for daring to have an opinion and so I came prepared.

Perhaps I was blessed with the luck of the Irish tonight as unpleasant scenes were avoided, well unless you count the chundering teens over on the museum steps. So, despite giving Love Tattoo a warm review I was taken to task for pointing out that the album was more Joe Jackson than Wanda Jackson. I still stand by my comments but I’ll partially eat my words as, on stage, Imelda is a different prospect.

She’s still very much in the ‘file under easy listening’ mould but the show tonight is predominantly a masterclass in raw, raucous rockabilly which, while never straying into Cramps territory, certainly gets the pulse racing. This is, of course, the perfect prescription for a family-friendly, free festival and sees rockers from 8 to 80 getting up for a jive.

Imelda certainly looks the part of a 50’s sex siren in a figure hugging, Irish green, lurid, leopard print dress. Not only does she look great but, damn can she sing! She hollers out the words like she’s entered into a pact with the devil and is ably supported by her band of brylcreamed musicians who create that authentic 50’s showband sound. Highlights of the show include a seductive take on The Beatles Oh Darling and a barnstorming version of her crossover hit Johnny Got a Boom Boom (or Boom Box as the compere amusingly describes it) The rest of the set, drawn mostly from Love Tattoo contains few surprises, although the encore of a rockabilly Tainted Love is an unexpected masterstroke which really gets everyone up on their feet before the firework finale sends them home happy. Imelda May is a solid gold entertainer and she’s gained another field full of converts tonight.

(words & pictures: Steve Burnett)

Steven Burnett

Updated: Aug 02, 2009

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