Imogen Heap of Crap

Two brief TV things…

First, “24” is BACK, baby! Wow, this week was awesome. Jack hijacking a plane was bad-ass to begin with, but add the priceless moments of Chloe tasering the drunk guy in the bar, and then Jack pulling on the control cables from inside the baggage claim to nearly crash the plane — wow. It’s tough to forgive them taking 18 episodes to make the show good, but this week, it absolutely returned to top form. 5-out-of-5 stars.

At the other end of the spectrum was last week’s performance of Imogen Heap on The Tonight Show. Eric Whitacre and Daniel Montoya have been raving about her for ages, so a few weeks ago, I bought her album on iTunes, and you know, it’s really good. Great production, good tunes, and she has a cool voice. But seeing her live on The Tonight Show nearly turned me off of her for good. I actually had to stop watching for fear that she would forever ruin my enjoyment of her album. This is an artist who apparently has a real talent for writing and producing, but manages to have a black hole of talent — complete negative space that sucks the life of everything around it — when it comes to performing live. Her persona on the show was completely off-putting as she writhed around awkwardly in front of that mixing board and laptop. And I understand that on the album, she performs to electronics, but can’t she throw us a single instrumental bone when she sings live? Backup vocals, maybe? Hell, a drummer? Even other people just standing in front of keyboards? I remember seeing Moby on SNL a few years ago, expecting to dislike him as much live as I did on recordings, but he (and his band, particularly his percussionists) kicked ass, leaving me actually admiring Moby a little — and that’s music that is also inherently electronic.

But the solo singer in front of a mixing board and laptop wasn’t what really irked me; it was her self-conscious styling with “aren’t I interesting looking?!” hair and her irritating mannerisms and tics that were impossible to ignore. Here is somebody who doesn’t simply lack charisma on stage, but manages to be completely off-putting personally. Plus, she just didn’t sound good. Without post-production, her voice is thin and nasal and her poor intonation takes me back to some of the early auditions on American Idol. She took a song that I truly like — Goodnight and Go (that’s the iTunes link) — and made it almost unrecognizable.

I know Montoya is going to see her live soon and I’ll be curious what he thinks after the concert. As for me, even though I changed the channel after about 90 seconds, I still get a little peanut-butter-back when I hear that song on my iPod now, and it’s tough not to throw up in my mouth just a little as I think about it while I type this. Imogen Heap on CD: 4-out-of-5 stars. Imogen Heap live: zero stars.


Kevin Howlett says

Really? Wow--with all the gushing that everyone's been doing about Imogen Heap (myself included) I always thought she'd be a spot-on live performer. I do think her style choices are a little...forced, however. Feathers in the hair? Hmm.

Daniel Montoya, Jr. says

oh man... I do hope she is better live next week. She is performing with Zoe Keating (not sure who that is), so maybe there is some back up.

Well, I will be sure to give a detailed review, complete with pics and hopefully video.

But yes... she's one of those who I think is "weird" for the sake of being "weird."

jim says

I saw her when she was in Chicago back in January... I loved her so much BEFORE I saw her, and I didn't want to admit what I really thought of her live show... call it denial, call it being overly-protective, but DMjr, KEEP YOUR EXPECTATIONS VERY, VERY LOW. She's BRILLIANT on CD... but live... umm, yeah... the most I can say is she's... charming... in a very... self-effacing... British... little-sister-got-into-mommy's-closet... kinda way...

jim says

Oh, and Nicki really liked Zoe Keating... I thought she was crap.

Anonymous says

I saw her perform in Nashville and she was awesome. Nearly all of her songs (except for the obligatory "Hide and Seek") used the backups of Kid Beyond (an AWESOME beat-boxer) and several instruments. At one point, there was a string bass, a French horn, a drummer, Kid Beyond, a Imogen on the piano and singing. Sounds like you just caught a bad show.

DistantSirens says

I've seen her live twice, once with Zoe Keating, and the other with Kid beyond and Levi Weaver.
Her show with Zoe Keating I feel was a lot better than the other, but neither were bad in any right.
You must have caught a bad performance, because she was brilliant live when I saw her.

DistantSirens says

I saw her in Toronto.
Sorry to double post.

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