Marc Almond at the Union Chapel 2001…
I couldn’t mention that I was going to see Marc yesterday as it was meant to be a surprise birthday treat from my brother Simon - and I know he reads my site. I was also treating my sister-in-law, Dawn and my sister Joanna as early Christmas presents. They are all big Soft Cell fans so they kind of knew what to expect but none of them had seen Marc perform solo before. I knew they were in for a wonderful evening. What I didn’t realise was just how wonderful it was going to turn out to be.
We got down to the Union Chapel at about 7:30pm (when the doors were due to open – or so I thought). There was no queue. Odd. In fact the doors had opened at 7pm. Everyone was already inside and the support act (?) (Radiohead sound-a-likes) were already in full flood. We took our seats (second row from the back) and got a couple of beers. After the first band had finished there was a brief interval. We spotted some familiar faces way down the front in the middle and so went to say hello. To get their front row / middle seats Bryn and Larissa had been queuing since 4:10pm (Mad! Quite mad!). They had been keeping themselves warm with frequent trips to refuel with champagne at Oddbins across the road (So not quite so mad, then!). Apparently the second set of people to start queuing arrived at about 5pm. Not quite such big fans. Obviously. Also near the front was sexy David. “I’m a bit drunk”, he said. I smiled and held eye contact with him for slightly longer than was strictly necessary. Britta was also in the front row. She had arrived at about 6pm (if I remember correctly). I have something to give her tonight. I like Britta.
Finally the lights dimmed and at 8:15pm Marc appeared. Dressed in his long black leather jacket sporting his bleached blonde (almost white) Tin-tin quiff.
He opened with Glorious following it up with Come Out (both songs from his latest Stranger Things CD). The crowd went semi-mad. His voiced seemed in good shape for these opening numbers but the sound system was a little distorting so many words were if not lost then at least harder to understand.
Marc when did a bit of audience chat. “Welcome to a hit-free evening of gloom”, he said. He then welcomed on stage two violinists from the Marc and the Mambas days and proceeded to do Under Your Wing (again from Stranger Things), his alternative version of Almost Diamonds and Night & Dark (both from Open All Night). All three songs were haunting renditions – Joanna leaned across to me at one point and whispered , “What fantastic words!” Too true.
We then were treated to a run through Marc’s back catalogue with Black Heart (the Mambas only 7” single back in 1982) and Motherfist (always a good sing-a-long from Motherfist and Her Five Daughters). Then Marc sang Midnight Soul (again from Open All Night). This was obviously going to be a show for the fans.
The crowd all hushed for What Makes A Man. Moving and well sung, if a little rushed for my taste. Marc’s voice almost seemed to be getting a little shaky from this point on. He rather galloped through the next five or six numbers in fact. There Is A Bed (from Motherfist and Her Five Daughters), Broken Hearted and Beautiful (originally a B-side from the Ruby Red 12”), Jacky (from Tenement Symphony - Marc even forgot the works – twice!), Moonbathe Skin (from Stranger Things) and Champagne (again from Tenement Symphony).
Then Marc sang a Charles Aznavour song Our Love, My Love which went down so well at last year's gig.
The closing run of tracks were all simply sensational. Caroline Says (a Mambas track from Untitled), I'm Sick Of You Tasting Of Somebody Else (another Ruby Red B-side). Tragedy (from Open All Night), These My Dreams Are Yours (from The Stars We Are) and his new track I Created Me that brought the house down.
A short pause for a change of outfit and Marc come back on to do two numbers as an encore. The much hinted at Ruby Red (from Motherfist and Her Five Daughters) and Torment (from the Mambas Torment and Toreros). He had been on stage for 1 hour 50 minutes (the same running time as last year). We left with the words to that final song ringing in our ears, “more and more and more and more…”
The show was more than I could have hoped for. An inspired mix of old and new, cherry-picking from his back catalogue of obscure (yet fabulous) album tracks and B-sides that we love him for. It was Marc’s show start to finish. We were just there to watch the master perform. He is a world class entertainer unmatched by many for sheer vocal and lyrical talent.
Oh, and my brother loved it too.