Natalie Imbruglia at Shepherd’s Bush Empire
As an eager accumulation of fans gather at Shepherd’s Bush Empire to hear Natalie Imbruglia play hits spanning a staggering quarter-century career, the audience are first treated to a set by Cornish creative Marcus McCoan. As a songwriter and producer, the man has forged a career penning songs for K-Pop sensation BTS, among others. As a solo artist, he is best known for the single Hair Down. Personable and humorous with the crowd, he soon morphs into a rock star with Chemical.
Demonstrating flawless falsetto over an infectious guitar riff on most recent release Try Me, the performer also offers a funky, slowed-down version of You’ve Got the Love before closing his set with Hair Down. It’s an assured and exciting start to the evening with a compact set that leaves the listener yearning for more. McCoan is one to watch.
One can instantly identify the decade Left of the Middle was released simply by listening to it. Natalie Imbruglia’s debut album is one of the most memorable of the 90s and epitomises what was without doubt an incredible decade for music. While Blur and Oasis were exchanging insults, countless female acts were dominating the charts; as the Spice Girls were rapidly taking over the world, ushering in a new wave of commercial girl groups in the process, a number of alternative, indie acts were simultaneously making their mark. Bridging the gap between pop and soft rock were the likes of Alanis Morissette, No Doubt and, of course, Imbruglia. Now, to mark the 25th anniversary of her first album, the Aussie artist invites London to celebrate with her.
For a concert marking a milestone, one might expect an opening song from the album that made her famous. Instead, Imbruglia opts for the feel-good What It Feels Like from most recent effort Firebird. It works, getting the crowd pumped and setting the scene for what will be an evening on her terms. Wrong Impression, from sophomore release White Lilies Island follows, with its fun, singalong pop vibe going down well.
Wishing I Was There has the crowd singing, but the pop idol soon jerks them back into the present with latest single Nothing Missing. Though it marks maturity and musical growth since her debut, it’s also something of a throwback to times past, with its alluring blend of pleasing pop and soft rock. Shiver has the auditorium bellowing along at full volume. Smoke sounds ageless; performed with musing deftness, it is one of the highlights of the evening.
Claimed as one of her personal favourites, Pigeons and Crumbs resonates with the room and transports gig-goers back to the 90s with its quirky sound, complemented by Imbruglia’s soft and contemplative vocals. Firebird calls for reflective calm, while the rocky One More Addiction has both the singer and her crowd in full-on rock mode.
The sultry Leave Me Alone feels real and raw, with the performer invested deep into the lyrics. It is arguably one of the more timeless tracks of her repertoire. The Morissette-esque Big Mistake – one of the more notable numbers of the debut album – lures the audience towards grunge and allows Imbruglia to further exhibit her rock-chick demeanour. The star is having fun and they are all there for it!
Torn, although a cover, is of course the song that put the artist on the map. It has everyone enraptured as they both celebrate a perfectly constructed pop song and reminisce on the simpler times of yesteryear. The introduction on-stage of the producer of the hit, Philip Thornalley, who guitars, is an endearing moment. Imbruglia also makes a point of showcasing her exceptional band, which is well warranted.
As the applause drowns out the iconic venue and people begin to disperse, the singer refuses to end proceedings so early. An encore including the titular track of what tonight’s gig is in honour of ends with the opening single of her current album. Build It Better bookends the raw vulnerability of Torn and Left to the Middle with a matured, experienced and empowered Imbruglia, who promises a great deal more to come. Big Mistake? Yes, for anyone who misses the chance to see an artist in her prime.
Photos: Guifré de Peray
For further information and future events visit Natalie Imbruglia’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Nothing Missing here: