Marc Almond @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – 17 October 2017

Posted by Zyllah Moranne-Brown on Tuesday Oct 17, 2017 Under 60s, 80s, Alternative, Classical, Nu Metal, Pop

Review by Zyllah Moranne-Brown and photography by Ken Harrison.

Tonight’s artist has just tipped into his sixtieth birthday – which is so many ways is just ridiculous. A chameleon of music – an icon and inspiration – starting off with massive success in the very early 80s, his musical journey has been far and wide, but always with his own unique style. ‘Shadows and Reflections’ is Marc Almond‘s new album; and he’s here tonight to celebrate it and much more with full orchestra in tow.

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Almond rose to fame as one half of Soft Cell, formed with Dave Ball in 1979, when they were both at Leeds Poly. Their most famous hit, ‘Tainted Love’ became a dance floor classic available in multiple 12″ vinyl remixes. Most people will have heard, brought or danced to it. Mavericks for the time, Soft Cell celebrated the dark side of the movement with ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ exposing the sleazy side of live they ended up living within.

The critics found them confusing (and before their time) and by the mid-eighties they split amicably, with Almond forming the Marc and the Mambas and subsequently concentrating on his own work, dabbling in a wide range of genres. Though Soft Cell briefly reformed in 2000, Almond continued on his own since then and fought his way back from a life-threatening motorcycle accident, after which he had to learn to sing again. His voice is now probably better than ever. Whether you like him or not, Almond’s work has inspired a generation…

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They band and orchestra members take to the stage, and wit a flick of his arms, sunglasses and dressed in black – Almond’s music journey commences. ‘Shadows and Reflections‘ is theatrical and orchestral – yet dark. Thank you so much. Playing my favourite songs, in a fantastic place with a fantastic band to fantastic people. I’m so lucky!”

His new album  ‘Shadows and Reflections’ features a raft of iconic songs and 60’s orchestral pop for which he is beloved, songs by Burt Bacharach, The Action, The Yardbirds, Bobby Darin, Julie Driscoll, Billy Fury and the Young Rascal as well as two new original compositions – and we recognise them. ‘How Can I Be Sure’ – that great pop song by The Rascals,  most notably covered by Dust Springfield, and we roll in our seats from side to side.  ‘The Days of Pearly Spencer’, with orchestra in two, is big and encompassing – a David McWilliams cover, but a #4 UK hit for Almond way back in ’92. ‘I Know You Love Me Not‘ has attitude, and an anecdote on the next  – the original artists loved his version, thought it was probably better than his version. Quite an accolade from David Bowie on Almond’s interpretation of ‘The London Boys.’ And one onto one of his favorite – an emotional ballad called ‘Embers.’ And first of this two part set completed with ‘Something’s Gotta Hold of My Heart’  – his #1 UK hit with Gene Pitney….

Almond is a charismatic front man – happy to chat and engage with the crowd and to shake the hands of audience members between the sets – and is clearly ecstatic to be here.

Part II starts of with ‘I Close My Eyes and Count To Ten’; ‘Scar’ strips right on down, an acapella performance with his backing singers, Almond’s voice gets stronger and stronger. ‘The Sun Will Rise ‘ originated from being translated from a Russian show, and now it’s been taken up as a rousing anthem by the gay community in Russia – Russia sometime needs a little bit of that…

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The re-titled’ The Cranes’; another song inspired by a Russian translation – is for our servicemen and women. A heroic rising anthem.   Almond’s vocals – as a punter shouts – ‘What A Voice’ hits the mark; and then we get, probably what the audience really want as they rise to their feet. Soft Cell’s ‘Torch’ followed by solo top #20 hit -‘ Jacky.’ An intro to everyone on set, and behind the scenes, set completed with ‘My Hand Over My Heart’; to autographs and flowers and bows and selfies.

But it’s not quite over. ‘I Gotta Find Me Somebody’ is a party chant, each supporting vocalist getting to play, and a quick morph into THAT hit. ‘Tainted Love.’ Just to put how big this track was in context; this version of the song has sold 1.35 million copies.

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And it being the end of the set, and Almond declaring he’s getting on a tad he takes to a stool; in his own words he says that the fact that he is still here is a “…a wonder of the world…” And so to complete is a sweet folk ballad to send us all off to sleep with out Horlicks…. ‘Say Hello. Wave Goodbye.’

Marc Almond is indeed a maverick. He’s got a phenomenal and unique voice and is a talented lyricist, although dancing is clearly not his forte. You can’t stick him in a box to say which genre he is. He’s continually skirted around the edges, in a similar manner to Nick Cave, and maybe he hasn’t gained the level of success his talent deserves, specifically because he doesn’t conform. We like that. In so many ways he’s a national treasure. Check him out and I’ll leave you with these lyrics going round and round your head…

“Take your hands off me
I don’t belong to you, you see
Take a look at my face for the last time
I never knew you, you never knew me
Say hello, goodbye
Say hello, wave goodbye…”


Setlist:
Overture
Shadows and Reflections
I’m Lost Without You (Billy Fury cover)
How Can I Be Sure ( The Rascal’s Cover)
From The Underworld
Still I’m Sad ( The Yardbirds cover)
Not For Me
The Days of Pearly Spencer (David McWilliams cover)
Interlude
Blue on Blue (Burt Bacharah cover)
I Know You Love Me Not
The London Boys

Embers
No One to Say Goodnight To
Embers
Something’s Gotta Hold of My Heart (hit with Gene Pitney)

***Break***
I Close My Eyes and Count To Ten
Earthly
The Sun Will Rise
Scar
The Storks / Cranes
Winter Sun
Smokey Day (Colin Blunstone Cover)
Just Good Friends
Beauty Is You
A Kind of Love
Torch
Jacky ( Jacques Brel cover)
My Hand Over My Heart

Encore:
I Gotta Find Me Somebody / Tainted Love
Say Hello, Wave Goodbye

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