Natalie Imbruglia | Pop review

Heaven, London

For a singer mainly associated with one 12-year-old song, Natalie Imbruglia has done a sterling job of keeping her pop career chugging along. Even four years after her last album, she's still held in high enough regard for Chris Martin to have handed over three new songs originally intended for Coldplay. In return, she has noticeably raised her live game: once tepid and mousy on stage, she has acquired a sequinned dress and enough confidence to compensate for an indistinctive voice.

Two things became clear as she ran through half a dozen songs from the new album, Come to Life (scheduled for February). She's much more natural as a poppy extrovert than she is when striving for credibility as she did on her last tour, when "putting on a show" meant plodding on stage, singing and going home. Secondly, her new material presents an Imbruglia we've never seen before: the Radio 2 blandness of signature hit Torn has given way to something murkier that could be indebted to Bat for Lashes and Kate Bush.

It created a quirky gig – on the one hand, Imbruglia was bouncing and bobbing like a dozen Fearne Cottons, wrapping feather boas around the band's necks for the "fancy dress" encore of Wild About It. (The luckless guitarist was forced to wear a pink tutu.) On the other, she was presenting songs that were more complex and intriguing than any she has done before.

One of Martin's tunes, Want, is a corker: swampy and lush, it brings to mind Bat for Lashes' Daniel. Has this more interesting Imbruglia emerged because of a genuine musical epiphany, or simply because she has a good producer in Ben Hillier, whom she thanked at the end of the set? Considering her track record, it's hard not to be sceptical. Nice gig, though.


Caroline Sullivan

The GuardianTramp

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