Marc Almond
ABC, Glasgow
23 September 2012

Live review  

Marc Almond took to the stage in Glasgow last weekend and our man Joe Whyte was there to catch the show. 

Mr Almond is not a particular fave of mine, but being the missus’ birthday and seeing as how she’s a long-time fan; I bit the bullet and tagged along. This, unfortunately, made me miss a rare performance from The Primevals, who are playing elsewhere tonight.
You know how it is. A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

The ABC is a fairly cavernous venue and when it’s not jumping busy it can miss a bit of atmosphere. Tonight’s crowd are well up for the show but unfortunately not in great numbers. Almond played here about a year ago on his 30th Anniversary tour and perhaps this has had an impact on the turnout.

Given that Mr Almond has had the mentioned 30 years of output he has a lot of material to choose from. Tonight was a run through of his best known and best-loved songs.

Almond’s band includes former Sigue Sigue Sputnik guitarist Neil X. Having a foil such as this onstage brings out the best in the singer and Neil’s rockabilly/glam licks slide effortlessly into the set.

Despite his recovery from a near-fatal motorcycle accident a few years ago, Almond is looking sprightly and playful. He does perch stage centre on a stool for a couple of piano-accompanied Jacques Brel numbers but other than this he’s an engaging, charismatic figure.

Looking from the neutral sideline as it were, I’m given to wondering about the Marc Almond legacy. This is an artist with a huge body of work behind him, a man who has tasted chart success with Soft Cell and existed outwith the mainstream for many years, ploughing a single-minded furrow of his own design.

Despite this, Almond is not given the same level of kudos as say, Nick Cave or Depeche Mode, to name a couple of same-era artists.
Watching Almond rattle through the hits, it’s a possibility that he’s a victim of his own personality. There’s an element of camp throughout, which if removed, would probably alienate a chunk of his fanbase.

I wonder how his career might have progressed if the sugar coating was removed and he’d been a bit, y’know, nastier.

Almond has a chocolaty, rich voice and one cannot but admire the standard of his songwriting. From electro ballads through flamenco-inflected stompers via old-school crooners, he most definitely has the chops. His band are well-drilled and soulful, although the pianist stage right who I caught stifling yawns more than once needs to get to his bed at a reasonable hour.

Mother Fist sees the band all take solo spots and Neil X, we’re told, has been attending flamenco guitar lessons. He fires off flourishes of notes on his acoustic guitar that bring Barcelona to town.

Early solo hit Jackie sees accordion man Baby D off his seat and if not rocking out, swaying gently.

Following the obligatory run through of Tainted Love and Bedsitter, Almond leads the band through a blistering version of T-Rex’s Hot Love.

Again I’m left wondering. What if? I can just hear an album of rock music with Almond’s voice and Neil X’s guitar. Now that would be a proposition.

All words by Joe Whyte. You can read more from Joe on LTW here.

15 COMMENTS

  1. Marc, not nasty enough for you? Have you really listened to his albums, or read his books? There’s a lot of venom beyond the sugar-coating.

  2. You obviously strugged to keep some sense of objectivity, wary as you were of the ‘missus’. “Watching Almond rattle through the hits, it\’s a possibility that he\’s a victim of his own personality. There\’s an element of camp throughout, which if removed, would probably alienate a chunk of his fanbase.” Implying that it would consequently gain him a wider audience. Apart from the fact that this debatable viewpoint comes ever so close to being downright homophobic, I actually think it’s the other way around: Cave and DM are victims of their own personality and keep churning out the same songs over and over again (if I hear about one more song about violence and murder, I will commit either!). They may be more popular, but so what? Was it about commerciability, Almond would have stuck with techno-pop. On the contrary, the man has the balls to explore different musical avenues and THAT’S what leaves a lot of people disorientated and dissatisfied, as they would rather he did “Tainted Love” to death, remaining in the safely familiar territory they feel comfortable in! His popularity may be inferior to that of some of his contemporaries (though far greater than the majority of 80’s popstars!) however his ‘kudos’ is just as great, as his recent Mobo Hero Award testifies. Hats are still off.

    • No, you read mine. I stated: “ever so close to being downright homophobic”. I stand by statement. What’s campness to do with anything? I wouldn’t dream of saying “if Tom Jones were less butch, he’d lose some of his straight audience”. Your comment is laughable at best and prejudiced at worst. As far as calling me fool….well, you’ve come ever so close to being downright abusive. Three words: SORT IT OUT!

  3. Very mature and professional reviewer, aren’t you Joe? Nice to see you being so respectful of those who have dared to contest the points in your review and not abusive and condescending at all. Really shows you in a good light mate.

    Sarcasm aside, Baby Dee is indeed transgendered and identifies herself as female, and would not take kindly to being described as the ‘accordion man’. (Also Jacky is hardly one of Marc’s ‘early solo hits’, it came out in 1991, seven years into Marc’s solo career.)

    • Er, pederasty? Really? Enlighten us, do! We must have missed that one! The one about sodomy also passed me by completely. You weren’t thinking of the title of the last Soft Cell’s album were you?? “This last night in Sodom”, which we all know refers to the biblical city. As far as debauchery, that’s hardly an exclusive of Mr Almond’s repertoire, as it’s featured heavily in pop music through the ages and it’s a backbone of rock’n’roll itself. Whores and transsexuals he sings about, yeah, you got that one right…sorry, what’s your point? Are you some kind of mormon? The only one time he ever touched on the delicate topic of incest was when he covered a song by French singer/songwriter Barbara. Suicide is another theme which is featured in a Lou Reed’s song, of which Marc recorded a cover and still occasionally delivers a tactful live version. As far as wanking, well, after reading your comment, I’d have thought you, more so than most, could really find some identification with ‘Mother Fist’ (a literary reference to a short story by Truman Capote, whose books you’d probably burn, given half a chance!). I would really get my facts straight before taking to the keyboard, pal! And anyway, all these things do go on, you know? I urge you to invest in a revolutionary gadget: it’s called TV.

    • Oh, and the link you so kindly you post, is an obscure track featuring a poem by Jean Genet translated into English (just to annoy a wider range of bigots!). Interestingly the song was never released by the record company, whose liberal attitude clearly had nothing on yours!

  4. actually try not to comment on “comments” as it were, but the reference to homophobia really took the biscuit I’m afraid. If you read the review, you’ll find that I actually enjoyed the show (I’ve seen Marc a few times over the years btw) and the stuff about career etc was my rumination over a possible different course. It’s NOT critical, it’s a contemplation on his long history in music.
    As regards “campness”, I stand by my opinion that Almond gives off a vibe of not taking it all very seriously and performs in a pretty tongue-in-cheek manner. This is what I mean by maybe being a bit “nastier”. I, for one, don’t find him very believable.
    I admire the passion of all you Marc fans, you all clearly know your stuff as regards his influences etc, but some of the comments are really a bit precious.
    You don’t need to be offended/defensive. It’s only opinion. Try and not occupy the moral high ground when it’s clearly not required.

    • Acknowledged. I didn’t think your review was a bad one. However the remark about the campness took MY biscuit! LOL
      And I honestly don’t think it would alienate any of the existing fans if he suddenly became less ‘cute’ in his approach. Although I’ll admit that that very trait greatly contributes to our ‘adoration’, as it makes him appear human and honest. I also agree with you when you say he’s not always believable, but to be fair, I think that after all these years, the line between true and false may have become too blurred! I do appreciate that you appreciate the way we like him: it shows you have respect and understanding for other music fans. :))

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