Quiff that hair and shine up those dancing shoes, Ireland’s own queen of Rock & Roll is home again. Even though she is loaded with the spoils of commercial success, critical praise and international stardom, Imelda May still retains that which brought her this far in the first place – style, charisma and bucket-loads of talent. State catches the last date of her sold-out, four night stint in Dublin’s grand old Olympia. It’s the last show of a hectic year of touring and there’s a party atmosphere inside the Dame St. venue, one of homecoming celebration and proud admiration. There is a familial air from the beginning with May exclaiming from the stage – “Shout if you’re not related to me!”. It all makes for the right kind of setting for a night packed with head-nodding, be-bopping, old-time rockabilly goodness. May does not disappoint.
Almost every song played tonight has the potential to be a hit single, from the sultry tones of ‘Big Bad Handsome Man’ to the crazy strains of ‘Psycho’. The crowd are too busy dancing to be singing along too heartily, though the ridiculously catchy chorus of ‘Eternity’ is persuasive enough for those vocal chords to be rigorously exercised before ‘Sneaky Freak’ and the restyled version of Soft Cell’s ‘Tainted Love’ bring everyone back to their feet with renewed fervor. The band are on top form throughout, showcasing the kind of casual musicianship that make even the trickiest solos and the most frantic bass lines look so easy. The four men in suits are the perfect foil to May’s obvious star quality, hanging back in the pocket to give her the platform to perform with all her famed gusto.
The jubilant mood in the room is only increased with a smattering of guest appearances, firstly from Sharon Corr, who played fiddle on the wonderfully raucous ‘Tell The Devil’ as well as one of her own songs. Highlight of the night was undoubtedly the impromptu appearance of Dubliner Eamonn Campbell for an unforgettable performance of ‘Dirty Old Town’ replete with leather jacket, hip-shot Telecaster and toasted blues licks.
The set ends the only way it ever really could, with the out-and-out rock of ‘Johnny Got A Boom-Boom’ before the band return for an encore of Christmas songs. Bounding back onto the stage in a seasonal Santa-style dress, May is joined by the legendary Mary Black and once again by Sharon Corr. The three women, holding hands, sing us out over a barrage of billowing, fake plastic snow. A beautiful end to a great year for Imelda May and in the end, not a soul leaves the venue tonight unsure as to exactly why she deserves it all and more.
Photos: Abraham Tarrush.