A proud Dubliner, Imelda May points out she’s not American, yet she is the only non-US based artist to headline Hall One at this year’s Summer Tyne Americana Festival.
What May rightly points out though is how blues, country, roots and rockabilly music are all connected. Over the last year, Imelda May has finished writing and recording the follow-up to her latest album Tribal, although a title and release date is currently unknown.
Jess and The Bandits, who have become regular visitors to the Sage Gateshead, so much so that they are now almost honorary Geordies, open the show. This is their third performance at the festival this weekend, but their first appearance in the grand surroundings of hall one.
With Jess is guitarist Luke Thomas from British country duo Luke and Mel, who were last seen supporting the band on their recent full UK tour. The group delivers several numbers from their excellent debut album Here We Go Again, including the anthemic “We Are Tonight” and their latest single “Kiss You Now.”
They play a few covers including a beautiful duet featuring between keyboard player Steve and Jess on Lee Brice’s “I Don’t Dance,” as well as their take on Randy Newman’s “Mama Told Me Not To Come,” and a sublime rendition of Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Linesman.” The band recently recorded some of the covers for the deluxe edition of Here We Go Again, released earlier this year.
The band closes out their set with “Single Tonight” which turns the room into a full-blown hoedown. Jess and The Bandits look perfectly at home in the larger auditorium, and the superb acoustics of this room really highlight Jessica Clemmon’s powerful vocals, particularly on the likes of “You Can’t Stop Me” and “Drunk On Me.” The band is becoming one of the rising stars of the British country scene.
It’s been almost two years since Imelda May’s last show in the region, and as she takes to the stage, it’s immediately apparent that she has changed her image somewhat by losing her signature quiff in favour of her hair flowing freely over her shoulders.
Tonight Imelda May blasts through a high-octane set which sees her deliver the lion’s share of her 2014 album, Tribal, with as many as eight tracks taken from the album, included in the show tonight. These include the likes of “Wild Woman” dedicated to the women of Newcastle/Gateshead, the sultry “Wicked Way” and a song about Dublin’s famed den of iniquity the “Hellfire Club.”
Imelda May started off her career singing the blues clubs of Dublin, and as such goes back to her roots with a sublime cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Spoonful.” Hall One at the Sage Gateshead can be a challenging room to conquer, but not for this wild woman, who manages to coax the room out of their seats and onto their feet, with everyone dancing throughout. Imelda closes her set out with the up-tempo rock number “Johnny’s Got A Boom Boom” from her debut album Love Tattoo, leaving the audience wanting more.
As she returns to the stage, May takes a seat atop of the double bass laid across the stage and delivers a breathtaking cover of U2’s “All I Want Is You.” She next orchestrates the audience they sing the chorus to The Rolling Stones hit “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” a truly magical moment. May closes out the show with “Pulling The Rug” from her 2010 album, Mayhem. We look forward to hearing more of what is to come from Imelda May when her new album drops.