Imogen Heap | The Cannery, Nashville | 05.20.06

Her voice sounded immaculate live, her instrumental acumen consistently impressive, yet the concert was riddled with the stops and starts of either distraction or unprofessionalism.

Standing alone in the middle of an overgrown garden of wires and Christmas lights, Imogen Heap opened the show quietly, looping an a cappella version of “Just for Now.” Before beginning, however, she first listed every piece of equipment onstage. A harbinger of bad news, perhaps. Her voice broke on the first note as she was looping it, forcing her to start over. Looping technology can multiply a single voice into a chorus, but it will also reiterate a mistake, showing the stitches all too clearly. She seemed intent on tearing at the layers of her own creation, but it just proved that Heap is a creature of the studio.

Her voice sounded immaculate live, her instrumental acumen consistently impressive, yet the concert was riddled with the stops and starts of either distraction or unprofessionalism. Throughout the set, I couldn’t help but attempt to mentally fill in the spaces of the live show with the density of the album’s arrangements. Her voice, however incredible, simply sounds better with the isolating cacophony of electronic textures. She seemed to get lost in her own birdsong, the elasticity of her voice finally becoming plastic and brittle. My patience was finally dismissed in the encore, when Heap returned with a guest guitarist to perform “Breathe In,” only to spend the next five minutes trying to figure out if he was playing the right chords. (He was.) Maybe she lost focus. The crowd certainly lost interest. I would hate to see her written off as a one-and-a-half-hit wonder, but I’m not sure what else she has to offer.

None of this is meant to discount the utter beauty of “Hide and Seek” and “Let Go,” just to observe that they are maybe best left for headphones rather than cavernous clubs. To be sure, “Hide and Seek” remained powerful, if changed, amplified over the hushed crowd. Most of the songs were reproduced perfectly—any disjoint between performance and appreciation just showed me the importance of context. Heap’s songs will never overwhelm you. They insinuate their necessity over time. Glancing around the room as I was leaving, it became clear that she is loved mostly in memory, as if the shivering effect of her best work can never be heard apart from the scenes she soundtracks. Private seconds, films absorbed, a show’s emotional currency. But there was no story to unfold on this night, no individual electricity of moments remembered. Mmm whatd’cha say? That you only meant well. Well of course you did.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply