Imogen (“Immi”) Heap stood before her crowd. Rounding the corner of a second night appearance at the Lincoln Theatre (added after night #1 sold out) recently, she turned to a laptop on the far-right of her setup. “No, I don’t want a software update!” We laughed. It got fixed.
Because Immi is all-knowing, she flit carefree around her stage on May 4 — here, there, a tweak, a nod at her band members. She settled at the edge of the stage, sat, and treated us to a guitar-and-voice soliloquy from her electronic duo Frou Frou, “Guitar Song.” The audience, lulled by the hum of her voice, was gladly sedated.
This song traveled like a secret, Immi’s voice gently ribboning through the lowest and highest octaves: tangible and gone all at once. She delivered a signature move: domination with a whisper.
Garbed six feet in swathing toga-like fibers, a single messy braid over her right shoulder, Imogen Heap was a giant (yes, she’s actually 6’) in so many ways: a lifetime musician with classical training in all the instruments (yes, ALL of them), her actual passion (and henceforth, career) has been to research and co-create technology in the form of a “musical glove” that with a point or a curl triggers her tracks and instruments, in order for her to more self-sufficiently perform. As an electronic musician myself, surviving in a music world that has made many attempts to invalidate electronic musicians, Immi is my hero.
In between songs, Immi took time to answer questions from the audience. One audience member inquired about her dress; she responds with self-effacing loveliness — “Someone once told me, you make every different outfit look the same.” Another audience member boldly asked her about her views on collaboration and musical payouts. Immi’s response — you can tell– came from her equally strong attributes of intelligence and empathy. She knows she is lucky to be one of the few to make it (despite her musical and technological superiority), and she knows that she is lucky to be able to live off her music. Never one to bask or flaunt into the sunset, she is now working on developing a technology platform to allow artists “from [the far reaches of] Inner Mongolia to work collaboratively with Hollywood producers” to enable more musicians to be recognized and compensated for their work.
Stream Sparks by Imogen Heap on Spotify:
Post-intermission, Immi was collared in a Narnia-esque electronic icicle neckpiece. She went full-throttle electronic and coldwave into the trenches of her 2014 album, Sparks. “Come daydream with me… in closed loops and future-proof cardboard to caviar”. It was almost impossible to decipher what she meant when reading her lyrics post-show, but somehow they coalesce in the sound-weaving, like stars connecting into constellations. There was so much to take in—between her own synthesizers and tracks to those of her stage partner Guy Sigsworth (of Frou Frou) and the other musicians on stage to her magical gloves and “glove guitarmanship” to the midnight blue tree painted in the background with synth-wire roots to her joy of entertaining questions — second night in DC and on a long world tour, and Imogen Heap managed to give us a full-on night of sensory enchantment in her deep, dark musical forest.
Here are some photos of Imogen Heap performing at the Lincoln Theatre in DC on May 4, 2019. All photos copyright and courtesy of Katherine Gaines/AmbientEye.com.