|The Irrepressibles on stage in Rome|
The 2011 edition of the RomaEuropa Festival closed on Wednesday evening at the Auditorium Conciliazione with an utterly captivating performance by The Irrepressibles, the genre-smashing British band lead by charismatic singer and composer Jamie McDermott. After wooing public and critics alike with their first studio album and accompanying show Mirror Mirror, the Irrepressibles brought a new stage piece entitled Nude to this year's Rome arts festival, including songs which will appear on their forthcoming album, as well as several from their earlier outing.
As an Irrepressibles first-timer, I really wasn't sure what to expect from this performance - there was certainly a buzz of eager anticipation in the Auditorium foyer before the show. After an hour of waiting, however, the concert still hadn't started because of some mysterious “technical difficulties” – Roman audiences are used to ten or fifteen-minute delays, but by now people had become audibly restless, if not fractious! All was quickly forgiven, however, when Jamie McDermott finally emerged from the shadows into a dim spotlight, wearing a studded leather jacket and an electric guitar, and began to sing.
With its projected images and lighting effects designed by Ami Jane Cadillac for Lavish productions, Nude is very much a multimedia performance piece, but the heart of the show is the music - traditional rock instruments such as drums, guitars, and keyboards are married with orchestral instruments like violins and cellos, resulting in a unique and enchanting blend of Baroque pop and electronic soundscapes. The glue that holds it all together is undeniably McDermott's bewitching vocals. At first listen, superficial comparisons to Antony and the Johnson come easily to mind thanks to McDermott and Antony Hegarty's gorgeous soaring falsettos with a touch of vibrato, but clearly the Irrepressibles have been influenced by many other artists and McDermott wears those influences on his sleeve to create a willfully eclectic mix, as if he has managed to assimilate just about every New Romantic band from the 1980s and then produce something refreshingly new.
Whilst clearly straddling the line between performance art and a traditional pop concert, there is nothing aloof about Jamie McDermott – during the show's finale, in fact, the entire band, who for most of the show play shrouded behind translucent screens, affording us only tantalising glimpses of them - stepped down from the stage and wandered through the audience, closing the evening in a wonderfully intimate way.
A fantastic evening – catch them if you can!
Watch a clip of the meet and greet session with Jamie McDermott signing copies of Mirror Mirror after the concert below or click here to watch on YouTube.