Imogen Heap | 11.12.06

imogenGiving the impression more of a home tour than a rock concert, Heap puttered around on each electronic accompanist from the glass grand, to her keyboard guitar, demonstrating how looping works and how she manages to produce a "choir of many me's" live.

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  Photo by Chris Owyoung 

 

Webster Hall, New York City

As I walked into the Imogen Heap show at Webster Hall, I didn't know what to expect. Her music, an energetic mélange of electronica and gentle vocals, leaves many possibilities for a live show. Would this be your average "girl with piano" set?

Webster Hall's stage was transformed into a miniature Alice in Wonderland cum Garden of Eden. Five circular "moons" glowed an ethereal blue in the background of a set consisting of a glass baby grand piano (electronic, of course, its visible interior boasting a spiral of fairy lights). Fueling the garden-like atmosphere was a beautiful light-covered tree, a large fur rug, and a pink bustier lamp that matched Ms. Heap's outfit.

After great opening sets by up-and-comer Levi Weaver and beatbox master Kid Beyond, Heap made as understated an entrance as possible—sneaking on in a crimson can-can outfit reminiscent of Moulin Rouge. Her entrance embodied what is Heap's unassuming stage presence and yet manic aesthetic sense. After completing an energetic, "I Am in Love With You" with only her keyboard guitar, she proceeded to introduce her "band." Giving the impression more of a home tour than a rock concert, Heap puttered around on each electronic accompanist from the glass grand, to her keyboard guitar ("my baby"), demonstrating how looping works and how she manages to produce a "choir of many me's" live.

Having dispelled the magic of looping, she then launched into a "special a capella version" of Just for Now. After an endearing flub, having to re-record the opening line before she could loop it, the song cascaded into its assertively fragile self. Next, she contrasted with an intense version of "Headlock" for which she sprang up from her keyboard to jive and twirl across the stage. Following with "Loose Ends," she demonstrated the frustration of the song's lyrics through her powerful vocal range. Reaching banshee-like octaves—and accompanied by strobe lighting—this song enhanced the dream-like atmosphere of the show.

Though she performed many pieces alone, on several numbers she was accompanied by Weaver, Kid Beyond, a stand-up bass player, and a drummer. One of her most well-known songs, "Let Go," from her band Frou Frou, incited the loudest audience participation. Done in a much more organic fashion than the heavily processed album version, Heap's vocals, complemented by Kid Beyond's beats, offered a fresh take on a what some would consider an overplayed song.

From her first album, I, Megaphone—recently re-released after a six-year absence—she picked "Candlelight" and "Come Here, Boy." Both were back to back, and done with a gentle, more untreated feeling than previous songs. The poignant latter took its cue from the moonlike lighting as it was sung bathed in a cool blue light that highlighted the song's mellow insistence.

Throughout the show, Heap continually charmed this reviewer with idiosyncratic muttering that seemed to unconsciously flow from her mouth any time she tinkered with the buttons and keys of her instruments. With her singing and personality, Heap imparted a 1,500-capacity venue with the intimacy of a sound check and offered the flash of a Vegas cabaret alongside the musicality of a symphony.

After comically acknowledging the pretense of the "last song," she returned to woo the crowd with "Hide and Seek." Using only her keyboard guitar and featuring her electronic vocal choir, she stilled the crowd with the eerie song. Bringing on the band for the finale, she played a rambunctious rendition of "Daylight Robbery," followed by the spellbinding "The Moment I Said It" (one of her personal "favorites," and the last track of her current album, Speak for Yourself).

With such attentiveness to Heap's last song, the audience seemed to be doing its best to hold onto the wonderful dream of her show before it finished and slipped away. | Sarah Nashman

 

 

 

 

 

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