It's retro mayhem as Imelda May rocks Somerset House

Somerset House: Imelda May + Big Boy Bloater

The stately surroundings of Somerset House seemed an unlikely place to enjoy the throaty backbeat rockabilly of Imelda May, but it actually proved a pretty classy gig venue.

Warm up act for the night was highly acclaimed blues and 50s rocker Big Boy Bloater and his razor sharp blend of surf rock, Duane Eddy and early Dr Feelgood got the crowd's attention. I'd have liked a little more variety on the vocals, but Big Boy's band are a tight unit  and know their stuff.

Imelda May was the headline act though and judging by the number of quiffs and rockabilly girls in the crowd, she's top of the heap at the moment in this enduring genre, thanks particularly to consistent radio play for her humdinger of a second album, Mayhem.

Her appeal seems to me to be down to her knack of writing tight, punchy songs with great hooks that suit her powerful voice down to a tee, and also allow her stunning band  to show off their highly authentic musical chops.

Guitarist and husband Darrel Higham gets a gorgeous tone out of his big body Gretsch, and some virtuoso solos provided standout moments in an energetic 75-minute set. Rhythm section of Al Gare (bass and double bass) and Steve Rushton (drums) kept things in the groove, and there was also some excellent trumpet from Dave Priseman, who also played guitar.

All the big airplay songs got an airing: Big Bad Handsome Man, Mayhem, Kentish Town Waltz, Psycho, and current favourite Inside Out. There was also a cracking performance of country gospel number Proud and Humble, with the crowd enthusiastically joining in the call and response section. Other material focused on the current album Mayhem, plus Gypsy and Roadrunner, a couple of new songs still being honed on the road.

Imelda is a charismatic live performer, and while the music ideally works best in a packed, sweaty club, there was a good times vibe about the show that left the sizeable crowd heading home happy. See her while she's hot.


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