red lights


Next of kin to Kate, Tori and Bjork

Imogen Heap
Chicago, IL
Jan. 17, 2006
Imogen Heap

Story and Photos By Andy Argyrakis

Even though Schubas is one of Chicago's most lauded venues and is literally like watching an artist perform in a living room, the current hype surrounding Imogen Heap warrants a much more spacious place. Yet for the sold out crowd who entered the esteemed room, it was like a slice of heaven her on earth as the singer/songwriter unfurled an hour's worth of dreamy piano pop that could truly transport listeners to another world. But backing up a bit for those unfamiliar, the English bred Heap first debuted as a solo artist in 1998 when her debut disc I-Megaphone hit stores on Almo Sounds. Now that it's out of print, the project has become a hot collector's commodity, though her next venture caught on with much more accessible wind.Imogen Heap Though one could've assumed the sophomore CD to be another solo project, Heap actually paired with producer Guy Sigsworth (Madonna, Bjork) and they christened themselves Frou Frou. After tearing up the indie pop underground and scoring some mainstream acclaim thanks to its debut disc Details (MCA/Universal) the pair surprisingly split company, putting the attention back on members' regular gigs.

And that return to solo ranks, along with a new CD called Speak For Yourself (RCA Victor) is what brought her to town much to the delight of diehards. Thankfully Heap kept them satisfied from the start, entering the club from the public's door and walking through the crowd with a mantra-like chat. The sublime nature of her pipes was soothing and also led to several stunned reactions as they realized it wasn't a taped loop but truly the headliner nestling in right next to them. By the time Heap made it to her piano console, all were drawn to her welcoming presence and clung to every word. After briefly explaining what each item was on stage (from a laptop to various keyboards and sound effects mechanisms) she tore into several songs off the new disc and a few older selections. Current cut "Goodnight and Go," along with "The Walk," were both bathed in her delicate, darling vocals and backed by programming akin to the Eurythmics or anything else along those delightful 80s lines.

Come a flashback to "Candlelight," those dance leanings turned towards the ethereal, recalling the early days of Kate Bush and her obvious offshoot Tori Amos. The same could be said about "Hide & Seek," though Heap seems to have her ears trained closer to the radio than some of those aforementioned artists' mystical intentions. (After all, she has a penchant for the punchy, as evidenced in her airtime on "The O.C."). There were also nuances of Bjork in the show, such as during the chilling tribal undertones of "Have You Got It In You?" and the Frou Frou alum "It's Good To Be In Love."

Even with this obvious appeal, Heap could stand to learn a bit from the likes of her influences, especially when it comes to stage presence. Although the concert was supposed to be intimate and spontaneous, she had a hard time deciding what track order to tackle since her set list was not scripted. But instead of working it out in stride, she stumbled through her words and occasionally asked the audience for requests, which sometimes led to further indecisiveness and long pauses. Towards the end of the night, she thanked everyone for coming and made a point to say she made it through without any technical difficulties. It was an unneeded comment further made awkward when she admitted to flubbing a few verses earlier on, though those gathered still seemed forgiving. Aside from needing another coat of polish, Heap is poised to be a breakthrough artist yet again and can quite likely follow in the footsteps of her empowering ancestors. As for those who scored the coveted Schubas ticket, they'll certainly be able to tell their friends about the experience when she's playing five years, heck, even five months down the road in a much larger location.

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