Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Imogen Heap Live. Clumsy and Captivating.

If Amelia Bedelia was an incredibly talented musician, her name would be Imogen Heap and instead of being a maid, she would tour around the world frustrating, confusing, but ultimately captivating her audience. Last night at Sixth and I Synagogue in Washington, DC, the former-lead singer of ambient, indie-pop band, Frou Frou, performed to a full house under the dome. Starting right on time at 8pm on a Monday night, Heap, half-dressed, hair teased but not done, was welcomed onto the stage by screaming, elated fans. Mumbling into the microphone, Heap explained that she was just there to introduce her openers. Her system for live concerts is to give her band a chance to shine. For the next painful hour, the enthusiastic, elated crowd became morose and frustrated as her bandmate apparently named Back Ted-n-Ted did his irritating impression of the Pet Shop Boys. Next, Tim Exile looped noises until everyone felt like they were having a panic attack.

Finally, and only after a curiously long intermission, Imogen Heap came back on stage, now with her hair done and complete with a feathered headband. After mumbling nonsensical anectdotes in her heavy British accent, bumbling around the stage, bumping into various instruments and talking about how noises make her happy, she started to sing, and reclaimed her position as queen of the noise nerds, reminding the audience why we put up with all of this. Heap's voice is mesmerizing and watching her work the tens-of-thousands of dollars of electronic intruments on stage as she simultaneously looped bizarre sounds (bells, chimes and even a toy bird), made one appreciate her music even more.

After a few solo songs, she welcomed back Back Ted-n-Ted and Tim Exile to the stage as well as a drummer and even a local celoist (chosen from a talent contest online). The band chimed in on hits like Headlock and Just for Now, reconfirming that backup musicians should stay in the background, and when they do, they are pretty good.

If you haven't heard Imogen Heap's music, be sure to check her out - just go late and and stand a couple rows back so as to ensure your safety.

And, if you live in Washington, DC and have not yet discovered the intimate dome of Sixth and I as a fantastic place to see your favorite bands play, you are missing out. Check out there upcoming shows.

-Kendra Rubinfeld


  1. Fantastic review! Couldn't have done it better myself! :)

  2. Anonymous2/12/09 16:37

    i was there. that was exellently written. you worded just how i would have!i felt exactly the same way. great concert!

  3. Anonymous2/12/09 18:55

    i do not agree with many of your assessments -- especially in regards to the openers as well as imogen's stories. i thought they were endearing and highlight how genuine and humble she is.

  4. Her stories were cute the first few times, but after a while I really just wanted to here her other (musical) voice. Also, perhaps you were sitting in an area that you could hear everything she was saying. Particularly from the upper decks she was hard to understand. Not sure if it was acoustics of the dome or if she just needed to speak up in the mic. Thanks for the comments though!

  5. Amelia Bedelia is such an apt description of her - adorable yet so lost. I sat in the upper side deck and also found it hard to understand a thing she said. Still, it was fascinating to see how music produced by layers of improbable sounds came together. Her openers definitely had a way of removing all energy from the room.

  6. I totally agree about the layers of music comment. I actually was considering titling the article Deconstructing Imogen Heap because of that very reason. Looping by nature is a fascinating musical process to watch live as you can hear how the noise is made and then developed. Although it is interesting to watch a song's layer happen, I do think the music is only really nice to listen to if you have a voice like Imogen's to bring it all together. It's like her voice is the glue. Thanks for your post!