Wednesday 16 October 2019

Imelda May, The Trinity Summer Series review: ‘We’re alive and have one and half hours to enjoy – let’s do it’

Imelda May appears at the Summer Series gig in Trinity College on July 29. Photo: Andres Poveda
Imelda May appears at the Summer Series gig in Trinity College on July 29. Photo: Andres Poveda
Deirdre Conroy

Deirdre Conroy

The Trinity Summer Series came to a rocking finale last night with Imelda May superbly engaged in her hometown. Though she opened with the soulful sound of ‘When it’s My Time’, a gospel reflection on life and love, she quickly turned the night into laughter and loud craic, shimmying in her Gatsby-style LBD, she greets the crowd as gaeilge.

Next up, one of her many love songs ‘Be My Human’ is May’s reaction to ‘be my babe/princess’ and like a priestess, she asks the audience to turn to greet each other, not unlike that ‘peace be with you’ in church. Amusingly, she says that scene takes a moment in other countries, but in Dublin the audience start chatting and snogging.

There is something therapeutic about May’s attitude, a grown-up who has changed her vision, her life, many times, and as she rightly says, ‘we’re alive and have one and half hours to enjoy – let’s do it.’

There are so many backstories to Imelda May’s songs, full of depth, sorrow, tragedy, lust, love. Her song ‘Love and Fear’ is one she wrote in Paris after the Bataclan massacre, in which a 32 year old man and 25 year old woman who worked with her recording company were killed, ‘good people do bad things’ says so much, and not necessarily excusable.

Last night’s concert had more going for it than her vibrant music and Ragtime interludes. May likes to chat from the stage in between all the contemplative songs from her latest album Life Love Flesh Blood, produced by T Bone Burnett; it’s a combination of blues, soul, gospel, folk, rock and her acoustic talent.

In the soft open air, her vocal range is utterly compelling with the soothing and soaring voice that pitches the emotion in 'Call Me,' the melodrama in 'Black Tears,' and hits the high notes in one of my favourite songs while driving 'Shoulda Been You.'

Though we all became enchanted with Imelda as the rockabilly wonder girl, embedded in a classic 1950’s mode, with wonderful musicians, the change is more about the real person coming through. The lyrics move from painful heartbreak, to tender intimacy 'Leave Me Lonely,' and 'The Girl I Used To Be' and leap into raunchy rock, animated by her bodhrán.

As if one national heroine is honouring another iconic figure, May sings her rendition of Molly Malone and the crowd is in silent respect. In between all, we have the bonus of hearing poet and playwright, Steven James Smith, recite his epic poem, ‘Dublin You Are’.

It truly is a celebration of Dublin when May launches into Thin Lizzy’s masterpiece, The Boys are Back in Town and if you close your eyes, it is as if Phil Lynott is up there. Just for balance and kicks, politely nodding towards Derry, she gives The Undertones a twirl with legendary ‘Teenage Kicks’ and celebrates the great Feargal Sharkey.

Time is up and no rockabilly, the rules for ending open air concerts at 10.30 sharp mean we know there can be no encores. Except when our Liberties Dubliner plays in Dublin. And fair play to Ms May for rocking out ‘Johnny’s got a Boom Boom’ after closing time.

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