I can remember the first time I saw Har Mar Superstar like it was yesterday. A small, balding, chunky bloke with a wispy moustache wandered onto the stage. Few people paid much attention to him, perhaps presuming that he was a roadie or something. But he plugged in a mini disc player (yes, it was THAT long ago), took off his coat revealing a red jumpsuit and cape and then hit the play button. Suddenly this unassuming bloke was transformed into a strutting, spinning sexy lothario. Okay, so when he got naked (well almost, just the underpants remained) one or two blokes in the audience looked distinctly uncomfortable but it remains one of the most surprising and memorable performances I’ve ever seen. Fast forward a decade or so and would our second date be just as special?
First up this evening though Racing, who resolutely refused to get naked throughout their set. In fact lead singer James and keyboardist Alex (nice ‘tache there my friend) were even wearing shirts and ties.
The smartness extends to their tunes too, from the laid back grooves of opening number Summer Rain (think a hipper Style Council) and Quicksand through to the more booty shaking jams like Delirious (I think that’s what it’s called...I was too busy shaking my booty). One of the best new bands to come out of Birmingham this year.
Next, and currently getting a bit of airplay on 6 Music as well as just being included in Time Magazine’s 14 Musical Acts To Watch in 2014 (they’re going to be buggered when they get to 2099 eh?) Lizzo, all the way from Detroit (via current home Minneapolis). In the video to her latest track Batches and Cookies her and a friend smear butter all over the chest of some lucky dude.
He wasn’t here this evening...probably slipped out somewhere...ahem...and sadly the dairy products remained in the fridge for later but Lizzo still managed to grease up the crowd with some particularly groin grabbing jams. She’s all woman and she ain’t afraid to use what the good Lord gave her if you get my drift. I was particularly transfixed by her buttocks, each of which seemed to have a life of its own. That’s not me being a perv by the way, tonight was a fine demonstration of the fine art of twerking and it would be frankly ungentlemanly to ignore it...er...them. Happily it wasn’t a case of all twerk and no play. Like Missy Elliot’s younger sis Lizzo knows her way round a rap. She’s a natural party starter too, whipping up the crowd in between tracks and getting an unusually enthusiastic response to the old call and response routine. Her secret weapon might well be her ‘proper’ voice though, something that she occasionally switched to in between raps. It’s a powerful yet soulful thang, providing a neat ying to the rap yang. On top of set highlight, a neatly choreographed and sassy Batches and Cookies, the more brooding banger Lizzie Borden and stuttering anthem to ‘grrrl’ power W.E.R.K. were particularly strong tonight. When the hype starts to build (and it will), believe it. Trust me, Lizzo’s the bizzo.
Time then for the man himself. He’s not changed much. The ‘tache has gone...sadly (I have a thing for men with ‘taches...can you tell?) but the rest of the package...and boy what a package it is...remains gloriously intact. Joined by Lizzo on backing vocals (a cracking combination) he danced his ass off, blazing through classics like DUI and Power Lunch as well as showcasing tunes from his new, more soulful album Bye Bye 17, the pick of which, Lady You Shot Me, could seriously stand proudly up against anything from soul’s golden age.
That’s the thing about Har Mar, beneath the tongue in cheek image the dude has the tunes and, just as importantly, the talent to deliver them. If this track had been released by someone who looked like one of JLS it’d be number one. Pah! On a unrelated note given the more soulful vibe I’d love to see Har Mar team up with the boys from the Dap-King or the Budos Band to do some live shows with a kickass brass section...maybe one day eh?
In between all the original stuff he slipped in a cover too, a soulful and surprisingly touching version of Gilbert O’Sullivan’s Alone Again Naturally delivered crouched down by the edge of the stage, eye to eye with the audience. “My favourite song” he admitted afterwards. Bless him. By this point the jumper and vest had already come off and that glistening sex god bod was revealed. Hell, I’m not into men in that way but if I was I’d want a hunka hunka burning love like Har Mar to get down with. “What do you think? This could all be yours...!” he murmured, stroking himself seductively. Form an orderly queue please ladies.
Ending the main set with the brass ‘n’ ass of We Don’t Sleep (imagine this bad boy with a live brass section) he ended up, in traditional fashion, doing the trademark Har Mar neckstand, in turn leaving a perfect Har Mar shaped sweat stain on the stage. “I’m fucking amazing” he exclaimed, somehow achieving the kind of balance that stick thin gymnasts would struggle with. You have to admit it...he is.
Returning for the encore, towel round his neck (“Just back from the gym, done a few reps...buff”) he played the underrated synth driven R&B of Tallboy (heck, what am I saying, all Har Mar’s tracks are underrated) and Don’t Make Me Hit You. “Take your trousers off” yelled a bloke in the crowd “It’s always the dudes” retorted Har Mar. Awwwwww don’t you just want to hug him? Actually after the show I did. Couldn’t resist it. He’s a lovely guy, happy to chat and pose for photos. Obviously Har Mar’s a persona, I’m guessing the real Sean Tillmann’s a far more sensitive kinda dude. In a way it’s a shame, clearly for some people at least, that the music gets obscured by the image although would he have broken through at all without it? Who knows, one thing’s for certain though a night with Har Mar’s not something you’ll ever forget. In my eyes the dude’s still a Superstar. Har Mar-vellous.