REVIEW: Imelda May, O2 Academy, Sheffield.

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Imelda May has been doing this for a long time, starting off her singing career more than two decades ago as a teenager in the pubs and clubs of her native Dublin. And there is no doubt that you can still see singers and bands doing this sort of music in pubs and clubs everywhere.

But something about her has attracted the attention of the general public, propelling her to bigger venues and moderate fame. It may be the voice, the image or the undeniable Irish charm but she does have a certain something and she has definitely worked hard to get this far – a long way from the instant acclaim expected by today’s X Factor-saturated public

There is very little up-to-date about this as original songs and cover versions blended into one. There are certainly no great stylistic leaps or musical experimentation here. In fact a couple of her band members looked like they’d been around for the birth of rock’n’roll itself. But then age brings experience and they can whip up a storm when they want to.

There’s a case for saying this music and performance is incredibly dated, but there’s an equally strong argument for saying that it’s actually timeless. No matter what trends are round the corner, there will always be an audience for rootsy rockabilly sounds and beautifully-sung ballads and although there were lulls in a set lasting more than an hour and a half, the good stuff more than balanced the periods when it got a little bit boring. And, of course, young people will never have heard it before, which is why the crowd crossed the generations with a good few teenage Imelda-alikes in there.

The encore saw her coming as close to modernity as she gets, with Baby I Love You and Tainted Love, two songs which, although written in the mid 1960s, are possibly best known in this country for their early 80s hit covers, but for a grand finale she went back to her roots with My Baby Left Me, a number best known through Elvis Presley’s 1956 version. Imelda may look to the past but it seems she has a fine future ahead of her.

John Quinn