There’s no doubt many who place Imogen Heap firmly in the category of ‘someone who uses gadgets just for the sake of it’ and tonight there is no denying there’s a feast of gizmo’s on stage. However as she walks on, wrist microphones capturing the sound of a rope she swings above her head for the opener The Walk, it becomes clear her logistical choices of how to make music is not just a gimmick. With most bands there is usually a cut off point, when my eyes get tired of watching a singer thrash away at their guitar but tonight I am glued.
Heap’s sound is somewhat left of centre, filed somewhere amid the likes of Tori Amos and PJ Harvey, but non-commercial is by no means a bad thing and her ability to pitch through several octaves of notes gives her set added breadth. A saw (played with a violin bow), a warbling water bird whistle (yes the kind often found in Christmas stockings) and wine glasses are added to the mix, ensuring the tempo continues to change. But there’s more still and it’s undoubtedly the sampling machine and piano which pack the real punch. Give Heap just a few minutes at either, it’s easy to see why the audience reaction is so strong.
Whilst Come Here Boy (the song which granted her a record deal) comes to life for being least technology driven, Canvas and its bonfire sampling fills the room with a wintery vibe. I have to confess however, that it’s Half Lie that hooks me in, it’s low key sound proving that Heap has awareness when a good melody alone is enough to power a song. Meanwhile Headlock booms its way through the academy to a rapturous response and Goodnight And Go is so eagerly awaited by the audience, they launch into the second verse long before Heap has opened her mouth.
She may have played the Royal Albert Hall the night before but tonight she shows no signs of ego as she waffles her way through the set. For two hours solid she demands the crowd’s attention and mixes passionate vocals with intricate melodies. I walked in a doubter considering Heap an interesting concept but nothing more, and left transfixed. There is more to music than guitars and pianos and as tonight confirms, left in the right hands you can make magical music from almost anything.