Wednesday 25 April 2018


Eamon Sweeney

Eamon Sweeney


"OH my God this is overwhelming!" Imelda May gushes as she looks out into the vast throng packed into the O2 for the first night of her Irish Christmas tour. She's every right to feel a little giddy, as it's a long way from Bruxelle's on Harry Street to Harry Crosbie's dance hall, but the girl from the Liberties with the unmistakable hair do has almost made it look easy.

May mentions these inauspicious origins as she prefaces 'Spoonful' by Howlin' Wolf.

Flanked by her band that includes husband Darrel Higham on guitar, she radiates the goodwill of the season in a sparkly dress on a stage decked out like the old Switzers' windows and one Christmas box even contains a life-size Elvis. The real King of rock 'n' roll might not be in the building tonight, but someone else is who could even give him a run for his money.

Mary Black makes the first guest appearance of the evening for a fine duet on 'Between the Mountains and the Sea'.

Black also announces that May will be returning the favour by appearing on her forthcoming new album.

May delights the festive crowds with renditions of 'Big Bad Handsome Man' and 'Psycho'.

Given the intoxicating nature of the beast in playing the Friday before Christmas week, the crowd seem to drift a little bit into chatting and going to the bar, but May has one hell of an ace kept up her sleeve.


As her band strike up the opening chords of U2's 'Desire', Bono bounds onstage completely unannounced and the boy from Ballymun does a rousing cameo with the Liberties belle.

Bono stays put for a seasonal run through Phil Spector's 'Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)' and then departs into the wings as quickly as he came, without any speeches or the faintest hint of hogging the occasion.

At this stage, I'm almost expecting a hologram of Ray Winstone to appear saying, "Shane McGowan to come onstage next to sing 'Fairytale of New York' 4/1." Ms May keeps the party rocking with her breakthrough hit 'Johnny Got a Boom Boom' and Black reappears for 'Silent Night', a beautiful way to wind down a fun evening with the great and the good and the wonderful Imelda May.

To paraphrase the late Joe Strummer, who died nine years ago this week, her future is unwritten.

Irish Independent

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