Posted by Rachel Gardner.
Reviewed on 17th February 2010.
Live at Leeds Metropolitan University on Tuesday, 9th February 2010
The venue is practically packed out by the first support act, Back Ted N-Ted, who casts a lonely figure on the stage. Even though it is just one man and a guitar the noise he is making is massive, thanks to the computers and gadgetry that litter the stage. Electro pop rock rushes out the speakers and Back Ted N-Ted puts down his guitar and gives the audience a snippet of beat boxing that he then layers to create his track 'Hookie', which is accompanied by some very interesting dancing. He announces that it is his job to 'warm up the crowd' and he is certainly doing that, getting a great reaction from the audience, even if no one has joined in with the dancing.
Imogen Heap comes on to introduce the second support act, telling us how she spotted him at a gig her friend was playing at and stole him for her tour. She seems instantly adorable, casually chatting to the audience and praising her support acts.
Tim Exile comes out and a member of the audience shouts "you look like Jimmy Carr", Tim Exile deals with it very well, he does look slightly like a more attractive Jimmy Carr even with the horrendously brilliant jumper he is wearing. You can't help but be impressed with this guy, its sounds like New Order gone dark with bass pounding so hard I nearly lose my footing. His voice is quite soft so gets lost among the raging sound graffiti that is coming from the stage. The music he has produced from his computer and gadgets is really impressive for its technical ability. Though some of the tracks aren't particularly cohesive and are missing momentum in places, how he is producing them is technically extraordinary, layering up sounds that by themselves have no musical essence into a crafted track. I get worried at one point when some bit of kit isn't working properly but Tim Exile manages turn it into a comic moment and you can't help but warm to the guy. Considering it is just himself and he is restricted behind a desk containing a computer, wires and enough gadgets to give a music geek an orgasm, he fills the stage and demands attention.
By the time that Imogen Heap floats onto the stage to a chorus of wolf whistles and "We love you Imogen" the audience are at bursting point. It's easy to see why men are shouting out "I want your babies" as she is strikingly beautiful and moves about the stage with a feline presence. Her impossibly tall hair, creative outfit and waterfall necklace fit well with the magical stage design, where a ten foot tree takes centre stage. Off its branches hang and gong and an assortment of bells and percussion, which twinkle from the fairy lights set amongst its branches. Underneath the tree is a Perspex piano which although it looks impressive Imogen tells us it's a bugger to put together. When she asks the audience if she looks ok there is a resounding yes and yet more wolf whistles.
She opens with 'First Train Home' the first single from the recently released Ellipse album for which she has just won a Grammy. Her voice is spectacular, even though she fluffs the first verse and starts again she is note perfect and it's endearing. It's a great opening number as she rushes about the stage using various technologies to produce a powerful and emotive sound. The next track 'Wait it out' is a more down beat affair with Imogen and the piano which showcases her breathy voice that she doesn't just use but manipulates. On the next track she starts to layer up the song by blowing on her wrists and making a drumming movement. She explains that she has tiny microphones attached to her wrists so she can just go up to any instrument without it being miced up, and she has plenty to choose from. On stage she is joined by the support acts and a drummer who help her through a magical and mystical set.
For one song she brings on a guy who was interviewing her earlier and let slip that he plays cello. Imogen has been auditioning people to come and play cello on tour with her and had mentioned in the interview she felt bad she hadn't done this for Leeds. It highlights her humble and down to earth nature that she is so inclusive and unpretentiousness with her music. This is confirmed when she is asked about he she felt about Jason DeRulo sampling 'Hide and Seek' for his single 'Watcha Say'. She explains that she thought it was "inventive" and her philosophy that after she has finished a track it takes on a life of its own and doesn't belong to her anymore, she is just happy making the music she loves.
Not only is the music she is producing fascinating but so is how she creates it. I think you could give her some chop sticks and a vacuum cleaner and she could make beautiful sounds from it. The drummer has a device (that was used by pilots to communicate) around his neck that allows him to sing the bass line, Imogen prances around with a Boomwhacker (a hollow, long plastic tube) and for 'Tidal' she rocks sunglasses and a Keytar.
She puts on a great show, she constantly mumbles to herself and people off stage and it all seems a bit chaotic up there, but this only adds to the charm as its tight and organised where it needs to be, the music. The crowd have obviously been waiting for the encore 'Hide and Seek', again with the help of a Keytar, and being able to part of the experience is magical. There is something really enchanting about Imogen Heap, while with some artists you feel like they are baring their soul on the stage, with Imogen it feels like her imagination. She pulls off a captivating and creative performance, she is confident but accessible, funny, engaging and charming, this experimental music at its most beautiful.