Delighted to have the chance to see Baby Dee for the second time in a year or so. For those of you who don’t know her work Baby Dee is a transgender artist who plays a mean harp (and piano tonight) and sings a whole bunch of songs about transformation, regret, love, confusion…you get the picture. She’s a real Marmite artist, you’ll either love it or sit there feeling a little confused…at best. I’m a fan, partly because the music can, at times be hauntingly beautiful and partly, if I’m honest, because I have the utmost respect for any outsider artist who has the balls (hmmm…perhaps not the best turn of phrase in this case) to just go out there and do their thang. Tonight the audience was certainly split. There was some rather nasty snickering going on (to be fair Dee’s singing voice is a curious mixture of a haggered old sea dog and an angel and at times she sort of laughs the words out) but that says more about the puerile narrow mindedness of some of the audience than it does about the performance. Shame on you, whoever you were. In future please stay in and watch X Factor or whatever people like you do when you’re not inflicting your vile presence on the rest of us.
Baby Dee...unlikely to be appearing on X Factor any day soon.
Speaking of doing your own thang, Marc Almond’s always ploughed a curious field (not literally, I can’t imagine him up to his ankles in turnips and manure). Recent years have seen him putting out a covers album, a couple of Russian language albums and all sorts of obscure underground dance collaborations. The fact that he’s been able to put anything out after smashing his head into a million pieces in a motorcycle accident a few years back is nothing short of miraculous. The last time I saw him was at The Academy 2. Disdain for the venue dripped from his every pore. ‘They’ve stuck me in the corner of some shitty bar’ he moaned. True, it wasn’t the best venue for him and his musicians, a perfectly competent bunch of people but with more than a whiff of those wedding bands who do covers of ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’ about them, didn’t really help matters. Marc was my first ever gig at The Powerhouse (now the Oceananianiaiaia or some such godawful chain crap) way back in 1988. It remains possibly my favourite ever gig, filled with classic era Almond (Mother Fist, Vermin in Ermine, Stories of Johnny, The Stars We Are) and backed by La Magia (including Marc’s then muse Annie Hogan). I’d not been to a gig before so I wore a huge, thick, heavy donkey jacket (hey, it was the 80’s) and stood there sweating like a motherhumper all night, surrounded a mainly gay or gothic (or gay gothic in some cases) audience. I went on my own too. No one I knew then would’ve wanted to go as Marc was (and still is I guess) something of an outsider artist, despite all of the hit singles. Fast forward 21 years and here I am sitting in the
(1) Get a new band of younger, fresher, classically trained musicians. Sadly the drummer made every line of every song sound like the punchline to a bad joke…be-dum tschhh.
(2) By all means include new and more challenging material but don’t leave the better known tracks for the last 15 minutes. The couple we sat next to walked out after an hour of (mainly) Russian songs.
(3) Hire a really good musical director who can pull the whole show into something cohesive and add a little freshness to the older material. The 12 Years of Tears show in 1992 was a triumph...30 Years of Tears could be even better.
(4) Stop camping it up so much…on the piano backed songs the power, emotion and (most important of all) voice were very bit as strong as 20 years ago. ‘Witty’ asides are fine in between tracks, but not in the middle of them (take Mother Fist for example...substituting
(5) Learn the words to the songs…especially your own (Tears Run Rings in particular seemed to get a little 'confused').
(6) Rehearse the show. Last night was sloppy. I wouldn’t mind so much if I’d only paid a fiver but tickets were £21 each + all kinds of random booking fees.
To be fair Marc actually apologised profusely at the end of the show and called it a ‘bit of a mad one’. Hmmmm…that’s not the word I’d use. The absolute nadir was reached when the hapless Mr X’s guitar kept feeding back during the first part of ‘Gone But Not Forgotten’. Marc stopped and said something along the lines of ‘For Fucks sake Neal, can’t you get an amp that works?’ A sound man was summoned. He fiddled with some knobs and the song resumed. Two seconds later, more feedback. The entire song was then abandoned and there followed some farcical get the band off the stage, get the band on the stage nonsense. I half expected the band to start doing the Hokey Cokey at one point. Still, the faithful applauded like mad, showing just what a loyal lot us Marc Almond fans can be. Loyalty can, however, be misplaced. Let’s hope some realistic reviews of these shows finally get the message through and Marc’s true talent doesn’t end up being wasted in some dreadful end of the pier show which, sadly, is what last night ended up being.PS: Before anyone takes offense at this review please note that Marc himself acknowledged that it wasn't a great show. I've been lucky enough to see him at his best and this wasn't it.