Dublin, Ireland’s beguiling Imelda May headlined the Neptune in Seattle on Friday evening. This was my first show at the newly opened Neptune, which used to be a movie theater but has now been turned into a live music venue (with the occasional film still to be shown). As a venue it is unique in Seattle – it’s retained a cozy balcony plus the sloped floor of a movie theater, and the sound was some of the best I’ve heard. I’m not exaggerating. I was right by the stage speaker through the bulk of the night and with the way the sound was distributed there was no ringing in my ear when I left. Now, on to Imelda May’s performance.
May is a singer without peer. She coos, shouts and warbles like no other. There’s a definite, extraordinary and quite unreal quality to her voice. But it’s real and authentically fills a room. If you listen to her recordings there’s absolutely no additive to change that voice either, and you’re getting the real deal live. As a performer she goes from adorable, sexy, cool, to classically sassy with sincerity. And she’s cheeky (witness photo of her flipping the bird and getting away with it because, well, she’s Imelda May). May is faithful to her music in a way that would capture any audience, whether she’s doing country, rockabilly, jazz or whatever she’d choose to do. The musicians with her were fantastic too, but I regret I did not get a clear shot of the trumpet player/guitarist Dave Priseman. If I had to single out some key songs (each song on the set list was superb) I would focus on Mayhem’s “Sneaky Freak,” “Psycho,” “Johnny Got a Boom Boom,” “All For You,” and Love Tattoo‘s “Whatcha Gonna Do,” “Big Bad Handsome Man.” I purchased a pair of black and yellow Mayhem Imelda May socks (not striped like what she called her bumblebee dress she wore that night, but a combination she seems to like) right before the show, and I gotta say, these are a brilliant merchandise idea.