Live Music + Gig Reviews

Imogen Heap @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London

19 February 2010

The girl from Romford done good. Coming into 2010 her most widely known song Hide And Seek once again became ubiquitous thanks to Jason DeRulo’s multi-million selling Whatcha Say, and Imogen Heap built on that by going on to win a Grammy for her recent Ellipse album.

She found herself back in London for one night only as part of a mega-ambitious world tour that has already taken care of North America and still promises dates with the rest of Europe, Australia and Asia.

However, there were serious doubts about whether her homecoming gig would take place at all. She had cancelled the two previous shows and was seeing a specialist over a hideously affected throat on the morning of the gig. After a couple of hours of agonisingly click-refreshing her Twitter page, her followers were assured that, thanks to some super-strong steroids, she would indeed be taking to the stage.

So all credit to her. It can’t have been easy and at the beginning of her set, she struggled to trust her own vocals. Heap herself said it felt like trying to run on ice. You know how to run, but your legs don’t go where they’re supposed to. She knows how to sing but her notes weren’t coming out quite as they should have.

She needn’t have worried too much. After a few tracks things settled and she recreated her trademark ethereal pop songs, sometimes alone with a variety of instruments and her looping skills at hand, and at other times joined by support acts Back Ted N-Ted and Tim Exile for a fuller band sound. Between songs she mumbled away incoherently and shared her stream of consciousness with everyone out there. Endearing or irritating? In turns, both.

In a setlist unsurprisingly heavily slanted towards the recent album, only a few tracks were taken from her breakthough Speak For Yourself, and there was no room for anything from debut iMegaphone or from her time as half of Frou Frou.

Performing the same setlist that she’s played on every night of the tour so far, she mixed things up a little tonight by improvising a song with sound, timing and speed elements chosen by her willing audience. The end product, a swirly ambient piano-based track named The Shepherdess, was mixed and released to be downloaded from her website for a pound, with proceeds to go to Great Ormond Street Hospital; a clever, creative and novel way to raise some money for charity.

It became very clear that the curfew at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire would be broken, but massive credit needs to be given to Heap, for she knowingly exceeded her allotted time by 30 minutes, aware that this would cost her 1,500. She didn’t even have time to leave the stage before coming back for her encore, and it’s just as well she returned, because it finally treated the audience to Hide And Seek and two other tracks from Speak For Yourself.

Her fans were audible leaving the venue for finding the experience “incredible; better than hoped for”. They are loyal and if any missed this tour, they should get themselves to the Royal Albert Hall in November. She cares massively about her support and came across as a gifted and likeable person.

In return you want to wish her all the success in the world. But in a music industry overflowing with talented and individual women, it’s her meandering and unmemorable songs that let her down. Despite her going the extra mile tonight, those who love her still will, and those unconvinced will remain so.

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More on Imogen Heap
Imogen Heap – Sparks
Roundhouse launches new Summer Sessions series
Imogen Heap @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
Imogen Heap – Ellipse
Imogen Heap – Speak For Yourself