It stands to reason that someone with a catalogue as sonically complex as Imogen Heap’s would know her way around a studio. Little did we know she would bring that studio—quirky flourishes and all—to life before a live audience this past Monday at the Granada. Equipped with a dazzling stage setup and a backing band that at times included all of her three opening acts, Heap delivered a two-hour set of new, old, and unreleased material, flooring the packed house as she went along.
The night started with an eclectic smattering of warm-up talent that kicked off with No Strings Attached, an 11-member a capella vocal group composed of students from S.B.’s three public high schools. Their set, a mix of surprisingly elaborate covers, was the first in a long line of ways Heap managed to include the crowd in Monday’s show. (The group won the opening slot via a city-by-city contest hosted on her Web site.) Following Strings, the London duo Geese took the stage and dished out a haunting mix of violins and vocals. Rounding out the mix was Heap’s right-hand man Ben Christophers, who gave us a short but sweet set of acoustic numbers that called to mind fellow crooners like Damien Rice and Glen Hansard.
Come game time, it was Christophers (and the rest of an initial three-piece backing band) that took the stage with Heap. Wrapped around a dazzlingly lit life-size tree prop, the band added an impressive amount of color—percussion, samples, backing vocals, guitars—to Heap’s already astounding arsenal. Tracks like “Swoon,” “Come Here Boy,” and the false-started “The Walk” found her jockeying between synth, piano, and center stage, triggering vocal loop after vocal loop, and instrumental sample after instrumental sample as her voice soared, then fell to pitch-perfect highs and lows.
Among the almost unlistable highlights (in a set programmed by showgoers’ online votes), “Wait It Out” found Heap presenting a small smattering of homemade instruments and found objects before playing, recording, and looping the water glasses. She enlisted a pre-made sample from her family’s bonfire for a breathtaking rendition of “The Fire,” which built slowly at the piano before igniting in a fury of violins and drums. Around the halfway point, the youngsters of No Strings Attached reappeared to play vocal backing band on “Earth.” And a late-set live improvisational jam (which will be made available for purchase on Heap’s Web site, with the proceeds benefiting S.B.’s own Notes for Notes) made even the most skeptical of audience members guffaw with astonishment.
Sonic trickery aside, Heap’s otherworldly vocal register and endearingly scatterbrained stage presence and storytelling ultimately made Monday what it was. Soloing the breathy piano-driven “Half Life” and set-ending “Hide and Seek,” Heap was as dynamic as ever, proving that her talent is far more than the sum of her stage set’s innumerable parts. ν
(For online only)
“Come Here Boy”
“Wait It Out”
“First Train Home”
“Bad Body Double”
“Just for Now”
“Goodnight and Go”
“Hide and Seek”