Ok. Imogen Heap show from November 24 2006
Dallas, McFarlin Auditorium on the SMU Campus
As you know, with my musical training/obsession - I'm something of a music fan. Many concerts in my life I expected to be the ultimate show but left feeling disappointed. Then there were the shows that hit me over the head and planted themselves as benchmark performances in my mind (Neil Young/Sonic Youth/Social Distortion in Dallas in 1991 comes to mind). This show, along with Dead Can Dance's Spirit tour in 1997 stands as a time when I had the highest expectation and the artist excelled even that. I'm so happy when I'm not disappointed.
I arrived at the venue at about 20 minutes until 8:00 - show time with 2 opening acts. I was kind of surprised because there were long lines to get in as a phalanx of police officers were screening everyone before they entered the building. They swept everyone with the metal detector wands and looked in all handbags and rucksacks.
Imogen came out and personally announced the first two performers, which was a very nice touch. She was wearing a retro new-wave skirt with bunched down white boots and stockings, a jacket and a hat - what a cool chick! This made the entire evening feel much more intimate and conversational --that she was the first and the last person on stage.
First guy came out and played guitar and sang (sorry -didn't catch his name, but I'm sure it's on her MySpace page). He's a young singer/songwriter who also played double-bass and French horn in support of her during her set. The next guy was a musician from Dallas named Levi Weaver, who lives and performs in Birmingham England. Levi was a clever guy, and the audience chuckled heartily as he made self-deprecating quips during little technical glitches. He used digital loops of tracks and in that way accompanied himself to a superb cover of Radiohead's Idioteque. Lots of people stood and applauded that one.
When Imogen came out, she came down the aisle from the back of the auditorium with a remote-miked organ on a strap like a guitar and started singing and playing. After about a minute, she stopped and said "this is the point where I have to go on stage because the loop isn't working." Everyone laughed and cheered. The thing about this type of setup involving lots of computers looping multiple tracks is that things will mess up on occasion. I think it was probably her conversational ease that made the audience so patient and comfortable with all this - in fact, my brother in law said he thought that enhanced the performance in a way - it was very spontaneous and not an over-produced eerily slick production like everything else you see these days. I liked the fact that she was re-routing the cables herself between equipment, all the while chatting about how it was funny that things can be perfect in sound check and then go haywire the minute you step on stage and that the equipment was determined to show the many ways it can malfunction. I was surprised no tech rushed on stage to fix it all while she stood there, and that was exactly how I would have done it - myself.
The stage was really neat - the percussionist had a tiny trap-set and lots of other instruments. Immi had a transparent acrylic baby grand piano holding some of her keyboards and computer. When she was offstage, I could see the screensaver on her computer reflected in the upturned piano lid, which was swagged with flowers and fairy lights.
She was wearing ballerina flats and a lovely skirt and corset made of a not-quite-red-but-more-watermelon-y matte brocade, lime green lacing on the back of the corset. The skirt was beautiful and would flare out when she danced and spun, many ruffles of lime-green petticoat peeking out from underneath. Her hair was backcombed into a nimbus festooned with a mohawk spray of red and white feathers. Something on her face sparkled. She was beautiful, almost other-worldly.
Ryan Obermeyer was in the audience - he's done lots of fantastical photos of Immi including the image of her with the rabbit and the video featured below. He was in the audience, bald, save a mohawk of black feathers. Check out his site - I LOVE his photography - dreamlike. Remarkable.
After the first song was successfully deployed, Imogen walked around her setup and played little fragments on all the keyboards to demonstrate what each was for. She said of one little keyboard "this is my parrot" and it repeated "this is my parrot" about 10 times until she hit a button. It was very cute, and it's fun to see someone so technically adept who turns computers into instruments to please the ear.
The music was superb. About half the songs, the other 3 guys accompanied her onstage. It was beautiful, sparkling, bright and warm. Her voice is a remarkable instrument in itself showing tremendous breadth in both range and motility. The improvisational passages of her music can be baffling in their magnificence - she probably is a master at music theory and understands and uses all the relationships of tonality. I can't say any one song was a bright spot, as they all were superb. However, Hide and Seek, first song of the encore, was marvelous and excelled the spine-tingling original recording. Goodnight and Go was a delight, and she danced so beautifully. The quiet songs with just her on piano were touching and lovely, and that's how she closed the show--with the final track from Speak For Yourself--a quiet and melancholy song about parting. Fitting.
Absolutely one of my favorite concerts ever. I'm actually tempted to go online and see if she's sold out for Zona Rosa in Austin tonight. Would love to see her again. Update: Zona Rosa show is not sold out... Hmm...
Before the show, I confirmed with the house manager that Immi would come to the merchandise table after the show. THIS was the true Josie Grossie moment for me: apparently about 150 other people had the same ideer, all of them about half my age (or less), and I decided it was a no-go, that it was simply not meant to be- too chaotic. We milled about and got back in line and I bought a second t-shirt and after that, we just left. Walking to the car, I could see another throng of humanity clustered around her tour bus, so I knew she'd have to run that gauntlet before she even made it back in the venue, so, wise choice to leave.
For one nightmarish instant after the show I said "maybe I'll just head on home." The HORROR! Never thought I'd see the day I'd like to go home early. After all, it was only 10 until midnight. Old fogeyism may be catching up with your humble narrator. One crappy comment from my 9-years-younger sister was all it took, and then I was up for it. Peer pressure. We met back over at Lee Harvey's and sat at a picnic table by a fire pit and talked about the evening, how beautiful it was. I ran into former neighbors from lofts I've lived in and it was good to not feel a complete stranger at my former local pub.
I'm going to email Imogen's myspace page and send .jpgs of the necklace and ask if she'd like it--if I could send it to her, but I dunno. I made it for her, worked every bit of glass on the torch with her in mind, and it would have been neat to give it to her, but things work out how they work out. Whatever. Nothing could dampen how great an evening it was, and maybe, just maybe, I've postponed for a moment one of my musical idols seeing what a colossal dork I am. I'm calling that a win/win.