By Carron Stacey
WHERE: Portsmouth Guildhall
WHEN: 12/10, tour runs to 5/11
Am I still holding a torch for him? After the disappointment of the gig cancellation where Marc was supporting Human League at Brighton Racecourse last month, this evening was even more anticipated than it would’ve been.
- Read on for reasons including what happened to those dancing at a seated gig
Let me start, as customary, by explaining what sort of fan I am. Being 10 at the time, I loved Tainted Love, even more for the extended version including the Supremes’ Where Did Our Love Go?, Soft Cell’s hypnotic baseline and synth punctuating Almond’s sleazy voice.
Non Stop Erotic Cabaret I think I purchased a few years later, but I loved Bedsitter, What, Torch and, of course, Say Hello Wave Goodbye, the drunken duetting of which has signalled the end of many a party. I did love his cover singles, then really I suppose I forgot about him for a while. The friend I went with is more of a fan that I am, but I knew it would be a good show.
Front row tickets at £70, not too costly for my friend, but too far away – “I’d sit on his lap if I could” said she. I knew it was going to be a different kind of gig for me – not since I attended Manfred Mann in the 1990s with my in-laws have I sat down at a gig! But it was “this” sort of gig.
The stage was set for a mini orchestra, with a grand piano stage left. We were in between the piano and his mike. He came on to polite, but excited, applause. Being so close, we could see every line on his face (not that many, he’s aged well!) and every packet-fold on his new black shirt (new shirt for every concert!).
Lots of songs from the new album I didn’t know, but I did enjoy – he uses the four backing singers as musical instruments themselves, hardly backing up his singing at all for he doesn’t need it. I knew he could still sing, having seen him on TV, but did read a review that said he couldn’t hold a note.
Well, that’s really picky, yes he does waver at the end, but that is the way he sings and gosh, he held a few final notes for what seemed like minutes a few times! He certainly can hold a note! He tunes himself without earphones, but live, with the pianist/MD.
There are horns and strings in his orchestra, with his normal band, these four amazing singers and, of course, a synth, sadly not manned by Dave Ball! You can tell it’s all about the music with him. He plays some covers by Burt Bacharach, Julie Driscoll, Billy Fury (my mum would’ve loved it) plus his excellent versions of Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart (Gene Pitney would’ve been proud) and The Days of Pearly Spencer, Marc obviously loving his baroque pop.
Nearing the last quarter of his set, he announces he’s just warming up and launches into Torch. We are still seated, my bottom is numb, but the audience is full of 40-something ladies singing away! Two ladies try to dance at the front, but are shooed away by the No Fun Security Guards. (You must NOT leave your seat. You must NOT have fun.) Marc thanks them for their lovely dancing afterwards.
I haven’t researched any setlists, after being disappointed finding out, before their gig earlier this year, that Depeche Mode don’t perform Just Can’t Get Enough. I didn’t want to know what Marc wouldn’t play.
Sadly, he didn’t recreate any of the songs from Non Stop Erotic Cabaret, except for Torch, but I couldn’t really see how Sex Dwarf and Seedy Films were going to fit into the image portrayed by the orchestra-set on stage!
Sadly too, no Bedsitter, which for me lyrically is so poetic and tells such a sad, but “that’s how it is” story (“Dancing, laughing, drinking, loving”). (I’m now researching his set lists of the first of his two tours this year, and be damned, he played Bedsitter, and What.)
Nearing the end, he roused the audience with a belter of a song, which I find now is called Gonna Find Myself a Party, but I can’t find any artist. He segues into Tainted Love, but not the whole thing, which is fine, until I realise from my research tonight that he did play it during the previous tour, and with Where Did Our Love Go?.
The moment of the night has to be his final encore, Say Hello Wave Goodbye, for which he took a chair to the front of the stage to serenade us. I’m not sure I heard him singing it for my own singing and my friend next to me, and the rest of the Guildhall. We were on our feet by now and boy, what a song. It’s a whole book, or a film, in a few verses. (Why did that goon David Gray change the line “You were a sleeparound”?) “Take your hands off me, I don’t belong to you, you see…” It doesn’t get much better than this. And he remembered all the high and low bits he sings at the end, faithful to the record to the end! To rapturous applause, he stood, pausing, taking in the love from his audience, nodding occasionally.
One of the backing singers was loving watching us all sing at one point; she wasn’t old enough to appreciate him at the time, but it must have been powerful for her to see the effect he had on us. He is all about the stage, the sound, the lyrics. He puts on a bloody good show. Fabulous. Thank you, Mr Almond.