Imogen Heap casts her spell

2011-02-07 16:33
“Do you like my top?” The elfish brunette interrupts herself after dazedly rummaging through a variety of unlikely music-making tools and interesting-looking equipment. As night falls in the forest, she settles down and as the first notes escape her vocal chords the audience sits utterly enthralled.

It is hard to see how anyone - fan or no - would not be beguiled by the Grammy-nominated artist's bewitching performance.

Heap is known as a tech-savvy lady with an eccentric sense of style and a flair for the latest social media trends. In fact, her set was comprised of songs she crowdsourced by allowing her friends, fans and followers to vote on her website for the songs they most wanted to hear. Clearly, involving the people who love her music is something dear to her heart.

Her music are more like personal tales in the form of aural dreamscapes. They are conjured into existence with an array of unexpected instruments, electronic tones and imaginative sampled sounds. As she walks onstage in the magical setting of the forest amphitheatre at the Paul Cluver Wine Estate, a white tree entangled in fairy-lights twinkles above her, creating a surreal atmosphere.

Nothing about the way Heap produces music is predictable. She explains how she utilises an array of recording equipment to capture the perfect sound, which she then plays in loops, intermittently to build up layers of audio that forms the bases of her songs. The effect is a seamless, one-woman sound factory producing music that is unique, captivating and beautiful.

After she explains the inner workings of her music's production, the barrier between her and the audience seems to dissolve. Her natural, light-hearted air is absolutely charming and before she sits down to play a song, she chats and laughs and cracks jokes that has the audience smiling and chuckling with her.

The ease with which she performs is incredible, considering the juggling act she pulls off as she runs between sampled sounds, her awesome see-through piano, and her quirky instruments, which also includes a waterphone, a bullroarer, a xylophone and at one point a set of wine glasses.

Even when things do not go exactly as planned (forgetting the lyrics once and finding that her samples were off key), her wit and allure makes it feel as though you had been invited into her own magical living room where she was just showing off some of her new ideas.

Even at the last minute, when the sound system momentarily fails, she decides that now would be a good time to take some random audience questions. The intimacy of the show is definitely the trademark characteristic, made possible by the perfect outdoor venue's relatively small size.

As she treats the crowd to one of her most famous hits, "Just for Now", she engages the fans by dividing them into harmonies and having them sing the chorus with her. It is the first time in my life where participation does not feel forced and cheesy, in fact it comes close to being a spiritual encounter.

Heap is an incredible artist and performer and exceeded all my expectations through her live performance. Hearing Heap's classic songs such as "Let Go" and "Hide and Seek" while seeing her produce the magic in the flesh was an experience - not just a show.  


It is hard to see how anyone - fan or no - would not be beguiled by the Grammy-nominated artist's bewitching performance.
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