The signs weren’t good. A half-full venue, balcony closed off, the change in atmosphere since Marc Almond’s 30 years in music anniversary tour – at this very venue two years ago – was like night and day.
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It didn’t help that Almond struggled to keep in tune during the first half-hour. A man who desperately needs to be loved (and clearly disguising his middle-aged spread with a large satin shirt), the lack of energy on both sides of the fence indicated last Saturday night’s shindig at the Picture House would stroll by in pedestrian manner.
Then things changed. Nijinsky Heart seemed to lift both Almond and his audience’s spirits. He’d found his voice. Perhaps the 55-year-old had picked up a few new tips on performance during his Ten Plagues run at the Traverse (a Fringe First, no less) in 2010, for the more theatrical element to his persona was a huge connecting factor here. It seemed to perk up his dour-looking band, too, most of whom (bar Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s Neal X on guitar) looked like they’d rather be doing something else – like rolling around in broken glass.
Almond, though, was up and down off his seat, waving his cravat and pouring all his emotion into the songs as if reliving the stories set within them. Tenderness Is A Weakness, Mother Fist, an ode to Gene Pitney (Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart), The Days Of Pearly Spencer – all great songs that, if the crowd’s dancing and glancing was anything to go by, symbolised a certain point in time in their lives.
Almond may be a new-wave electro pioneer, yet whether it’s flamenco, cabaret or straight-ahead storytelling, under his tuition, no song sounds disparate. That said, while the likes of Bedsitter and Tainted Love had the desired effect you’d expect, they still sound as fresh as the proverbial daisy 30 years on.
Encoring with Soft Cell’s Say Hello Wave Goodbye, Almond milked the applause with due aplomb, health fully restored. But not before displaying his influences, and a T-Rex-heavy Hot Love. In short, a good turnaround from one of 80s pop’s more fragile, soulful characters.