Imelda May

The Cutting Room, New York City

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Photos by Arnie Goodman

Imelda May and her knockout vocals led an equally knockout band through the better part of her upcoming album, Life. Love. Flesh. Blood, for a private event at New York’s beautiful (and quirky) Cutting Room. May, looking chic and contemporary, has ditched her rockabilly beginnings for a more fashionable rock look and sound, and she wears both well.

May didn’t sing the album in order, but mixed up the tracks for an industry-only audience dominated by friends and family—people who undoubtedly knew much of it by heart already. Now  42, May has honed her stage performance to a fine edge, but it wasn’t until about the sixth song or so, on the rocker “Should Have Been You,” that she loosened up and delivered some real emotion. The band got into it right behind her, and their driving beat propelled her open-throated enthusiasm to an infectious high. The next tune, “Black Tears,” could easily have been ripped from the Brill Building’s playbook and sung by Bobby Vinton, which isn’t a bad thing, but certainly a contrast.

May, whose gestures are choreographed to the words, not the music, again let loose with “Game Changer,” possibly the best performance of the evening.  Reportedly written after  fellow Irishman and mentor Bono commented that her new album could be a game-changer, May poured everything she had into both the song and that performance, and again the band did not let her down, with spectacular work, especially guitarist Chris Pemberton and drummer Ryan Ashton.

Look for Life. Love. Flesh. Blood, due out in early April. Bono wasn’t lyin’.

—Suzanne Cadgène

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