Dubbed ‘The English Piaf’ by the British press, he does resemble a little sparrow a bit. The motorcycle accident he had three years go has left its marks. Marc Almond’s tough tattoos don’t obscure the fact he seems a little frail now. In his stylish suit he reminds me most of that other French chansonier, Charles Aznavour, whose work Almond has covered. I think he’s aging well.
On stage he admits he’s got trouble remembering his lyrics now and when, during a fabulous performance of Jacques Brel’s Jacky, he’s climbed on top of the grand piano, his tour manager has to help him climb off. Ouch. ‘I’ve done my back in,’ he says and grins and bears it.
Almond’s voice is strong. As always he edges a little close to sharp at times – a catty Dutch journalist used to call him ‘that off key queen out of Soft Cell’ back in the day – but he is always full of unbridled passion. Seasoned performers are the biz. And they need your support as much as newcomers, don’t be mistaking.
The venue’s filled up with ex-goths, you can tell. They don’t wear make up anymore – unlike Almond – but they’re still clad in black threads, two or three sizes up. They probably have well paid jobs, they are ‘creatives’ and they adore their MacBooks. Sorry, I’ve been working with tv demographics data a little too much lately.
It would be fun to drag a couple of emo-kids from their Evanescence concerts and show them what lies in store for them, Scrooge-like. I jest. I’d rather have this devoted but clearly geriatric crowd than cackling, texting, fickle 20-somethings. This lot know of Almond’s misfortune, that much is clear. Even before he’s sung a note, he’s welcomed with a thunderous applause and the crowd’s enthusiasm doesn’t wane over the full two hour show. They sing along, the hands go up, the tears run rings and hearts swell. We’re close to a conga-line here, it’s that kind of atmosphere.
I surrender, let myself go with the flow, but the camera’s lens creates a bit of distance. Just enough to realise there is not a lot of difference between a night out with Almond and evening with Engelbert Humperdinck, that’s entertainment. Marc is so very, very British. In Bizarro World he would probably make a fine Redcoat. In this reality, however, he’s just subversive enough to make it art.
I’d always liked Marc Almond’s work before, but as a live artist he was just a little too camp and over the top to really move me. He moves me now. The drama’s real and we all feel it. Back from death’s door, a miraculous recovery, just turned 50, from Sex Dwarf to Stardom Road… his opening song, Aznavour’s J’ai Vécu, says it all, really: I’ll explain my life and show you all I am and all I’ve been, and I’ll say for my defence that I have lived.
Seen: Paradiso Amsterdam, October 27, 2007
This piece is a loose translation of the review posted to my Dutch 3VOOR12 weblog.