Photos by Katrina Lat
Imogen Heap is the embodiment of intersectionality. In her, we see the meeting and melding of musical genres, the twisting and taming of technology, the capture of creativity and commerce.
With no opening act, Heap and her band played two long sets at the first of two shows at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. The band itself was made up of 5 talented musicians, including her former Frou Frou partner, Guy Sigsworth. They gave us beautiful sounds, melodies and stories, all offering a peek into the mind of this fine, avant-garde British artist. Heap’s music is atmospheric and cerebral. There were clues at the onset, the tour name is a big one: Mycelia World Tour. Mycelia are what make up the network of lacy fungi that live beneath the ground connecting and giving support to trees and other plants. Remember that. It will be important later.
Heap and Sigsworth started the night off with Guitar Song, she perched on the edge of the stage while he stood at his keyboard. The band then joined them as Heap started talking to the audience about the next song, Entanglement. Heap rambled and chated with her audience in way that makes you wonder if she is aware that she’s on stage. Her stories are filled with under-the-breath comments suited for intimate kitchen table conversation. This in itself is endearing – and often comical, especially as she encountered a few small technical issues throughout the show. The concert showcased Heap’s fascination with technology; she wore her groundbreaking Mi.Mu gloves (music making gloves) throughout the show. Heap took the time to explain how the gloves work, helping the fans see the wonder and possibility in technology.
Heap, wore a loose black dress coupled with a chunky neon spaghetti knot of a necklace from a Torontonian designer, commented that she likes to wear local designers – further evidence of her commitment to art and artisans. Breathe In came next, a tip that the show would be a balance of Frou Frou and solo material. Heap told a story about how communing with the River Thames shaped her song You Know Where to Find Me. There was a tale of a disastrous party that Heap escaped. And the first set ended with Sigsworth telling the story of his solo song, Sharayo.
After the break, the band came back to the stage as Heap entered through the back of the theatre, singing Neglected Space. Her attire was augmented with the addition of a twinkly, wireframe Elizabethan-style collar which she wore for the rest of the night. The chatting continued as Heap talked about motherhood, before playing Tiny Human. She then told a hilarious story about meal for a vegan guy she liked – an experience that inspired her song Aha!. This banter continued through more Frou Frou and Imogen Heap material, and the audience was rapt.
This show forced the audience to think. A great deal of the talk revolved around technology. It was telling that the simple set design linked the idea of mycelia with the idea of blockchain. Heap is working on a solution that uses blockchain to underpin a system that allows musicians to be paid in real time. Heap stated that the music industry is broken, and needs a new way forward so that artists are valued and they get paid for their work. Her optimism about technology is comforting.
The last song of the second set featured Heap alone on the stage. She had talked earlier about her work on the Harry Potter Cursed Child theatre production and ended the main sets with Hide and Seek, a version of which appears in the show. It was eerie and perfect, fitting the mood of the moment.
There was a two song encore. The first tune was a mash-up of the Ariana Grande and the Imogen Heap versions of Goodnight and Go. The evening ended as it had started, with Heap and Sigsworth on stage alone. WIth the crowd coaxed into standing, the duo played The Dumbing Down of Love and bid their happy fans goodnight.