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Musician Imelda May delights crowd at Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone

If you’ve yet to catch Irish songstress Imelda May live you really are missing out on something special.

It may be that you don’t consider yourself a fan of rockabilly but the talented Dublin-born singer is probably one of the finest vocalists performing and, for that reason alone, anyone calling themselves a music fan should get themselves along to one of her shows. That’s if you can get tickets.

A relatively late bloomer, May started performing with local musicians and bands from the age of 16, but it wasn’t until 2002, when she was approaching her 30 birthday, that No Turning Back, May’s first studio album, was released.

Imelda May
Imelda May

Three more albums followed - to critical acclaim - but, after appearances on Later… with Jools Holland, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, the Grammys and a performance for Barack Obama the obvious next step was a tour taking in the illustrious Leas Cliff Hall.

And we’re lucky she did, because - and I promise this will be the only cliché - May brought the house down with a dazzling performance filled with energy and, of course, those amazing vocals.

Welcomed onstage by an enthusiastic audience ably warmed up by The Caezars with their own brand of fast and furious rock n roll May was straight down to business.

Effortlessly exuberant from the opening number - the title track from latest album Tribal - to the last, she lit up the stage in a way that few artists can.

Towards the end of the show May took a breather with the help of her bassist who joined her for beautifully intimate renditions of Cher’s Bang Bang and Blondie’s Dreaming, which gave May the chance to show the exquisite tone and flexibility of her voice.

It was an all too brief interlude, however, because May was soon doing what she does best, and that’s sweeping the audience away with rasping, ravenous vocals, pounding percussion and rootsy guitar.

The evening is an audience-pleasing balance of old favourites and new songs, with the deliciously ferocious Wild Woman, the comically referential Round the Bend and, of course, the fantastic Johnny Got a Boom Boom, which proved to be an appropriately frantic finale to the night’s superb entertainment.

There were members of the audience who have been fans of Imelda May’s for years and, on this performance it’s easy to see why.

Not only is May wonderfully talented, she is irrepressible, unstoppable and so down to earth it’s impossible not to enjoy her company.

Imelda May might be a late bloomer on the music scene, but she was worth the wait.

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