Marc Almond: Roundhouse, London

“I’VE STILL GOT it,” purred Marc Almond, midway through this fabulous show, as much to himself as to the audience. The rowdy response that greeted his remark stopped the singer in his tracks, although it was hard to say whether his mock-shock was merely part of his teetering-on-cabaret act.

The theatrical frontman, soon to turn 60, still enviably slim and energetic, has clearly lost none of his love of the limelight. Dressed all in black, his silky shirt unbuttoned to reveal a gold chain, he didn’t permit his star wattage to wane for a moment of this briskly paced show to promote Hits and Pieces, a double album retrospective of his shape-shifting career, released last week.

During the thumping, synth-driven opener ‘Adored and Explored’ Almond shimmied across the stage striking Saturday Night Fever-style poses. “For those of you with old hips and knees, keep moving or you’ll seize up,” he instructed. “Follow me!”

Often, he entranced with his hands, using them to act out lyrics from his storytelling songs as these days only a 1980s veteran would dare. He pressed them to his chest throughout ‘A Lover Spurned’and swung them with a flourish for the flamenco-tinged ‘The Desperate Hours’. He mimicked brushing his teeth and combing his hair while fans sang along to the Soft Cell classic ‘Bedsitter’, revamped with rock guitar, and flung them in all directions during ‘Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart’, dedicated to “the late great Gene Pitney”, the song’s 1988 co-vocalist.

An hour in, Almond claimed to be just warming up, but that was nonsense and he knew it. Before ‘Scar’, he pretended a take a moment “to psych myself up for this highly emotional torch song”. The genius of his act was that not once did it feel rehearsed. Even ‘Tainted Love’, Soft Cell’s signature hit, had a freewheeling freshness to it, thanks in part to two feisty female backing vocalists. As the song spun into the Supremes’ ‘Where Did Our Love Go’, Almond seemed surprised, although he’s been playing it that way for decades.

© Lisa VerricoThe Times, 24 March 2017

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