With polite notices asking us to refrain from smoking during Imogen Heap’s set (she had a sore throat), we were afforded a brief preview of pleasures to come. Not very rock and roll, but most pleasant all the same.
Much like Imogen herself, in fact. Exuding an eccentric glamour, with flowers and feathers adorning her gravity-defying birds-nest hairdo, her daffy, jolly-hockey-sticks banter quickly won us over.
This stood in stark contrast to her material: delicate, intimate, intricately woven pieces, delivered with a vocal style that dipped towards Dido, but was more in the tradition of quintessentially English artists such as Kate Bush.
Highlights included an amazing opening number, sung unaccompanied, but sampling itself as it went along, so that the accumulated vocal layers formed a kind of impromptu backing band. Forthcoming single “Goodnight And Go” drew cheers from an impeccably respectful audience, but its sublime new B-side “Speeding Cars” hinted at glories yet to come.
Big, Serious, Epic, Sweeping, Important. If you feel these qualities have been lacking from much of today’s rock music, then this New York based trio might just be the band for you. Particularly if you still hold a candle for the so-called “shoe-gazing” movement of the early 1990s, as espoused by the likes of Ride and My Bloody Valentine.
Shrouded in smoke, obscured by glaring spotlights, the shadowy performers on stage were all but invisible. Their sound was all that mattered – and what a hypnotic, all-enveloping sound it was.
Throughout the course of a carefully structured set, you were taken on a journey, as isolation, alienation and despair gave way to a tender, lyrical romanticism and a new sense of energy and renewal.
Yes, it was intense – at times almost overwhelmingly so – but with so few bands capable of sustaining such levels of concentrated power, this was a gig to be cherished. Magnificent stuff.