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After her rainy day ramble down nostalgia lane to receive her Kings Heath Walk Of Fame badge of honour earlier today at The Hare, Toyah Willcox got down to the serious business of reminding us just how and why her Princess of Post-Punk/Goth-lite song-writing and stage theatrics undoubtedly caught the 80s zeitgeist.

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Sporting a Mohican/Samurai flamboyant head-fan and a kimono pattern possibly designed by 60s Pop-Optical artist, Bridget Riley, suffering from a migraine, she cheeky-dimple bounced onstage with default-setting, vivacious energy. Bashless in sharing her youthful fifty-four years and eager to remind the punter-packed Hare that it was her first time here, she recalled her youthful days when her parents banned her coming anywhere near the place.

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The first of two sets kick-drum and synth exploded into ‘Good Morning Universe’. Her voice having lost none of its range from diaphragm deep growl to tooth-filling threatening falsettos as likewise her elaborate mime and facial expressionism. The trademark flamboyant hand gestures and exotic head movement motifs drawn from classical Indian/belly-dance choreography had the mosh-pit baying for more.‘Warrior Rock’ celebrated a rockabilly hand-jive beat that may well have been spawned during the great schism that saw the transition from Mud & Showaddywaddy to Adam Ants and Siouxsie Banshee and, possibly, a little bit of Bowie. So who answers for Duran Duran?

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There was a touching moment’s aside when she told how she, and husband, Robert Fripp, yes, that Robert Fripp! (But, you can’t just blame him for all things Prog-Rock, to be fair) parked outside her childhood home literally just round the corner and made an imaginary ‘phone call to her folks telling them how she’d got on in the world. See, we Brummies can show our tender side – Poundland queues excepted.

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It did tend to get a tad Prog-Rock bombastic on occasions though ‘Little Tears of Love’ opened to an ominous industrial cranking with Ms W near to spitting white-hot rivets through an Ertha Kitt feral growl. With ‘Thunder In The Mountains’ she invited on stage, Emo-fetale, Andi Fraggs, whose trowel-appliqué black mascara appeared to have solved the vexing challenge of carbon-capture by embracing it as a fashion statement. It all went rather well and the delightful boy is supporting her on later gigs.

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Set two opened with a very well received ‘Echo Beach’ cover that segued in to just one of the many seminal songs written by Lee Hazlewood, contracted tonight as ‘Bootz’ (were made for walking). It was a study in desaturated paranoidal, hypno-riffing before going off on one in a bit of another Prog-Rock tantrum. And yes, ‘Sweet Child Of Mine’ got a little reference somewhere or other this evening. Great fun, though. Naturally, ‘Mystery’ had the moshers, by now already arm-pit minging, near to defecating their DNA with excitement. Teenage tantrum anthem, ‘I Wanna Be Free’ likewise. Encores had her literally let that ‘Because she’s worth it’ gorgeous hair down and storm through ‘Elusive Stranger’. Local girl made good. Catch her Hallow’een gig in Town.

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Setlist: Good Morning Universe, Warrior Rock, Bird In Flight, Rebel Run, Little Tears, Brave New World, Blue Meaning, Jungles Of Jupiter, Thunder In The Mountains, We Are. (Set 2) Ech Beach, Bootz, Latex Massiah, Angel & Me, The Pact, Victims Of The Riddle, Danced, Neon Womb, It’s A Mystery, I Wanna Be Free. (Encore) Elusive Stranger, Ieya.

Review by John Kennedy
Photos by Ian Dunn

(Paul Nicholson: you are a gentleman sans pareil)

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