Photos by Neil Van.

May is preceded by her 7 piece band (three guitarists with slicked back hair, a saxophonist, trumpeter/percussionist, a drummer and keyboardist) to the opening strains of The Velvet Underground’s Venus in Furs. She takes a seat on a stool to begin with Call Me, the opening track of her latest album, released in April, Life Love Flesh Blood.

Her latest album is, at first listen, quite the departure from the rockabilly rebel with a defining cowlick. Her bluesy crooning offers a soulful set with its fair share of musical interludes and even a smattering of French in her first song, much to the approval of the audience. The band got to display their range early in the set with When It’s My Time, a gospel-like song from the new album.
May is a gifted storyteller who describes what inspired her songs in a charming, disarming fashion that makes you enjoy the songs all the more. It’s impressive that someone can seem both polished and genuine on stage, though the polish is helped by her band, who come across as skilled musicians. A particularly charming moment came when she recognised her cousin in the audience, quipping that she’s probably related to most Irish people in some way, but this person she certainly is.

The emotional high point of the night came when May asked for the house lights to be turned up so she could see the audience. She then directed everyone to turn to their neighbours and ‘introduce yourselves’. There were many handshakes, conversations, and even a few hugs. This moment could have come across as saccharine, but May adds an emotional punch that makes it feel genuine and heartfelt. Touching on the Manchester Arena bombing and her personal losses from the Paris Bataclan attacks. As someone who has been to many gigs at Manchester Arena, it certainly tugged at my heartstrings. It was a perfect introduction into Love and Fear.

The set mainly showcased May’s latest album, but snuck in a few tracks from Love Tattoo and the title track from Mayhem, much to the enjoyment of the crowd, who were equally warm to her newer songs. Her current album may seem like a departure, but it still comes from the same roots as her earlier work, and they fit seamlessly into the set.

May’s show at the Danforth was a pleasure to witness. Warm, soulful and very, very charming.

 

Setlist

  1. Call Me
  2. When It’s My Time
  3. Human
  4. Sixth Sense
  5. Big Bad Handsome Man
  6. Bad Habit
  7. Love And Fear
  8. How Bad Can a Good Girl Be
  9. Black Tears
  10. Flesh and Blood
  11. Should’ve Been You
  12. Leave Me Lonely
  13. The Longing
  14. Mayhem
  15. I’m Crying (The Animals cover)
  16. Johnny’s Got A Boom Boom [with Bodhran]
  17. The Girl I Used To Be
  18. Remember
  19. Game Changer/Teenage kicks (The Undertones cover)