Imelda May @ HMV Institute 8th February 2011


Pretty busy here at the HMV Institute as we wait for the new emerging talent of Imelda May to appear on stage. Still lovin’ the HMV Institute as a venue – you can clearly see the stage wherever you stand.

Imelda May is deemed to be the “next big thing” even though her career started years ago in the Dublin Club circuit where she fell in love with rockabilly and blues and with the music of Elvis, Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent. And this isn’t her first time performing in Birmingham, she is a regular with the The World Famous Palookaville! Burlesque Orchestra at every Candy Box show since it started in 2006


This Irish lass has an unmistakable cool but quirky 50s look, hair slicked back into a pony-tail, supported by a full rock-a-biddy band complete with bass cello. The first song is reminiscent of Magic Bus – a full on return to the fifties, to applause from the crowd.

She’s chatty – happy to talk to the audience between songs – her days on the club circuit giving her the skills to work with the audience. “Great to be back in Birmingham – wow lots of photographers down there, you get me shoes?”


“Johnny Got a Boom Boom” is New Orleans southern blues, whilst ”Go Tell the Devil” is a real see-saw of a song. The song she is probably best known for, “Inside Out”, was given the full on New Orleans blues treatment. Imelda and her band are tight and jam really well. Jools Holland rates Imelda May massively and believes she has it “in spades”. He insisted she appeared on “Later…” You can see why.

Imelda May is a real time-shift, taking you back right to the fifties musical hey-day. Standing here in the Institute, which has the over-riding feel of an old fashioned music hall, I half expected the crowd to part and American GI’s to start jiving, rock-a-billies to jitterbug and to see The Fonz leaning up against the bar. “Aaay…”.


She would have been a big star at that time and you can see why. The audience, give her rapturous applause between songs, but were increasingly talking through the set, so when she spoke it became difficult to hear her. I can’t really say that Imelda May is really my cup of tea. Fifties skiffle and blues is a little too far out of my musical taste – but in saying that, what she does, she does incredibly well and is indeed a massive talent.


I hope she sticks by her roots and continues to bring a unique reminder of a long ago musical hey-day, without being modernized and commercialized to meet the masses. She’s truly unique. She doesn’t sound like anyone else. Nor does she look like anyone else. So if you fancy popping back in time for an afternoon tea or a milkshake in Arnold’s – then drop in. Happy Days.

Reviewer – Zyllah Moranne-Brown
Photos – Steve Gerrard

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