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Saturday night on Oxford Road in Manchester, teaming with weird and wonderful creatures of the night. Tonight we were queuing to witness the spectacular rockabilly Irish queen Imelda May and her band. It was touch and go if we managed to get a ticket for this event, as it was a last minute decision, I’m glad I didn’t miss it. The venue was packed to the rafters and with no photo pit it was elbows to the stage, normally I wouldn’t complain about being so close to the band, but I could almost see up their nostrils. Firstly no mention of any support act inside the Academy on the posters, so we were pleasantly surprised to find we had a young rockabilly group heading our way.

Imelda’s special guests for tonight’s show were scouse rockabilly ‘Ted’ band, Furious, who certainly lived up to their name. Decked out in all things Teddy-Boy, the three-piece pressed their brothel creepers hard on the accelerator, like a set of rebels without a cause, starting a rumble with their first offering ‘My Bonnie’, delivering a turbo charged impressive cover. Keeping the pedal pressed tight against the floor until the closing song ‘You Are My Sunshine’. There’s some blistering fretwork by Andy Halligan though his Brother Mark’s impassioned growl is just as entertaining. Whilst the band aren’t a revolutionary new sounding band, being influenced by all things ‘50’s, they do throw in a bit of psychobilly, having the ability to keep the eager Imelda fans content and that is a feat in itself. They continued to supply us with some cracking covers and their own tracks, with plenty of movement and chatter. They are fairly young and I’m sure the rockabilly scene will lap these guys up eagerly. They are set to head out to Russia in December to entertain and delight.


My Bonnie (Cover)
ASBO shuffle
Rumble (Cover)
Hang Your Head
Puttin' On The Style (Cover)
Pretty little Lilly
Don't Change Your Style
All Night Long
My Eyes Run Dry
Aint Got a Thing
You Are My Sunshine (Cover)

There’s no substitution for hard graft. Many artists have the gift of inspiration, but without the requisite amount of perspiration, success can be elusive. A shining example that a strict work ethic can pay dividends is Imelda May, who played another storming set at Academy 2 on Saturday night.  It’s been a joy to witness Imelda’s career develop over these last two years; a small show at the Night and Day Café came first, then a sell-out gig at Academy 3.  A brief detour at the invitation of Jeff Beck saw her light up the Apollo Theatre, which finally brings us to Imelda’s biggest Manchester show so far at the 800 capacity Academy 2.  

Imelda May’s band arrived on the stage and the visually stunning Imelda waltzed onto the darkened stage to Al Gare’s double bass slaps and Steve Rushton’s propulsive drums, teetering on six inch spikes, with trademark blonde swirl and ponytail, poured into a red & black polka dot, 50’s inspired dress, with a ‘Love Tattoo’ necklace. Smiling brightly and utilising her effervescent personality, throughout the whole set. she unveils the show with ‘Pulling The Rug’, which coincidently is also the lead-in track on her new LP ‘Mayhem’, Imelda’s smoky tones gets everybody’s heart thumping from the word go.  She enthralled us during the first track, and didn’t stop till the end.

Touchingly she sang of her ‘Big Bad Handsome Man’, of course with her own man right besides her playing guitar. With a smile wide enough to melt the hearts of man, woman and child (of which there was two in the front) she continued on. Imelda's not just a voice, she can also play guitar and serenaded us, in addition to belting away on those tambourines. I guess you could say she is a photographers dream, she poses like a true star, swings her hips, flings those arms around and isn't afraid to enjoy herself. She also gave a great introduction to her own band and thanked the guest band Furious, encouraging us to support local music.

Musically, it’s easy to hear that constant touring has gradually transformed these musicians into a well drilled unit that’s more than capable of generating a torrent of energy behind Imelda May’s diminutive frame. Although her first love is rockabilly, this frighteningly talented band spices up the tunes by liberally sprinkling diverse elements into the mix.  The marrying of Imelda’s smoky gospel and Dave Priseman’s beautifully muted jazz trumpet on ‘Proud And Humble’ is probably the best example of how the band takes contrasting influences and moulds them in to something exciting and new. In fact it’s so exciting that it causes one member of the audience to boldly throw caution to the wind and propose to his girlfriend. Fortunately she accepts, and, after being told, Imelda congratulates the happy couple from the stage, though sadly we never do get to find out if he went down on one knee. However, spontaneous engagements aside, it’s when the boys build up a head of steam that the true power of this band becomes apparent.  Husband Darrel Higham’s sparky guitar playing on single ‘Psycho’ is a delight, as is Imelda’s soul shouting on last song, ‘Johnny Got A Boom Boom’ which by the time it’s finished has everybody grinning from ear to ear.

They return to deliver a flawless version of ‘Tainted Love’ that’s leans more towards Gloria Jones than Marc Almond, and is all the better for it, then follow it with a small tribute to the ‘King’ with ‘My Baby Left Me’. And with that Imelda and her band leave the building safe in the knowledge that once again the evening’s efforts have been worthwhile. I’m sure it won’t be long before Imelda May returns to Manchester, though it looks like we may be running out of venues big enough to contain her. In the aftermath we were tingling with feel good vibes and pleased to say not squashed or sweating buckets for once.


Pulling The Rug
Love Tattoo
Poor Boy
Train Kept a Rolling
Go Tell The Devil
Big Bad Handsome Man
Proud And Humble
Sneaky Freak
I’m Alive
Kentish Town Waltz
All For You
Inside Out
Bury My Troubles Away
Let Me Out
Encore: Tainted Love, My Baby Left Me

Review by Phil & Mel
Photos/videos by Mel

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