Tuesday, 29 April 2008

He has a touch of Lavender

I have been so looking forward to seeing Marc Almond in the suitably decadent and slightly sleazy surroundings of Wilton's Music Hall - and the evening certainly lived up to that anticipation. What a brilliant night!

Marc, looking a damn sight younger than his 51 years, held the audience in the palm of his hands for a fully-fledged torch song extravaganza; all drama and melancholy - in the true tradition of what Music Hall was all about.

Rather in the style of other "dark" artistes like Nina Hagen or The Tiger Lillies, Marc's song titles read like a catalogue of depravity and depression. But the reality is that in his hands these torch songs become jewels of breathtaking intensity - numbers last night included A Weakness for Roses, Lonely Go Go Dancer, Black Heart, Mother Fist, Suicide Saloon, So Long Soho, Moonbathe Skin, Love to Die For and the sleazy Bluegate Fields. The set also included a very beautiful song about a rent-boy's unrequited love for a punter For Only You, and some rather more tenuous numbers, such as a melodramatic Russian song about a beggar woman, and a rather-too-Nashville-for-me gospel song called Calvary.

He was aptly supported by a team of like-minded bohemians, including Baby Dee (bizarre tranny performance artiste, songwriter and player of the piano, accordian and harp), Little Annie (tiny New York singer with the looks of Don Knotts and a voice like a more soulful Carol Channing) and her partner (and apparent Barry Manilow impersonator) Paul Wallfisch, Celine Hispiche (thunderous-voiced cabaret performer) and a coterie of talented musos, some of whom apparently were part of Marc's onetime band the Mambos.

One song Marc performed beautifully is a long-time favourite of mine, Lavender. Shamefully never yet released on CD, this ballad of gay pride and shame in a bygone age has never failed to lift my spirits since I heard him sing it on the radio a while back:

A particular favourite was the duet with Annie on Charles Aznavour's Yesterday When I Was Young, but the big surprise of the evening was Marc's romping music hall duet with Celine on Masculine Women Feminine Men, a song originally done by 1920s camp drag artiste Douglas Byng and latterly covered by a number of people including - incredibly - Tom Robinson. Although the ubiquitous audience rhythmic clapping began to sound a bit like seals begging for fish, I loved the fact he introduced this song to a new audience, and I hope to see it appear on a future Marc album.

Hail to the king (queen)!

Masculine women, feminine men,
Which is the cock and which is the hen?
It's hard to tell 'em apart today! And, say!

Sister is busy learning to shave,
Brother just got a permanent wave,
It's hard to tell 'em apart today! Hey, hey!

Girls were girls and boys were boys when I was a tot,
Now we don't know who's who, even what's what!

Knickers and trousers, baggy and wide,
Nobody knows who's walking inside,
Those masculine women and feminine men!

Marc Almond official MySpace profile

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