We snaked our way in the dark and dim, winding and wet laneways and alleys from Tower Hill tube station, up past St Katherine’s Dock and down the infamous Cable Street and then down Grace’s Alley to reach our destination. The streets were desolate except for a couple of guys who shouted across the road
‘Are you from round here’?
Well I wasn’t but I wished I was so I said something like ‘No but can I help?’
“Do you know where Wilton’s is?”
I smiled and replied ‘Marc Almond?”
Icebreaker or what!
That warm feeling of finding fellow traveller rushed back to all of us and the four of us all walked together to Wilton’s, floating on our verbal exchanges of mutual fandom and admiration for, who is, Britain’s and even arguably, the world’s greatest living torch singer.
We reached Wilton’s Music Hall. Have you ever seen the movie the Queen of the Damned, the movie that a hybrid of the Anne Rice novels The Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned itself? Remember the vampire bar, the Admiral’s Arms that was set in a very lonely derelict corner of the decaying docklands? Well, that’s exactly the setting and mood of Wilton’s Music Hall (http://www.wiltons.org.uk). It really is in the arse of nowhere but like all gems, best found and never forgotten when found in the junkyard and not the jewellers. The music hall is on the site of a Victorian sailor’s pub and the interior put me in mind of a derelict church – with a bar.
Supporting Marc Almond was the wonderful poet Jeremy Reed (http://www.jeremyreed.co.uk) who performed with his trip-hop accompaniment/partner The Ginger Light. I had never seen or heard such an imaginative manner of the performance and portrayal of poetry – and I have been to quite a few poetry evenings let me tell you but for some reason, I can’t actually remember any of them. This is something I doubt I’d ever say about Jeremy Reed however. Born in Jersey and formerly an acolyte and under the patronage of Francis Bacon no less than, he has been described as the David Bowie of the poetry world. A former winner of the Somerset Maugham Prize for Poetry, he has written over 40 books of poetry and literary criticism. He cut a dash on stage, black beret, and red scarf and every so often would scatter silver glitter over his head like confetti. The music would not have been out of place in a Future Sound of London CD. It was atmospheric and sending and was set to the wonderful Soho poem Nifty Jim.
A treasure of a cultural find and Jeremy Reed is certainly a seam of culture I will be mining and seeking out for a long time to come.
And then the main act, Marc Almond himself. The audience, a veritable mixture of Gutterhearts and Cellmates (a true fan-gang never dies, we merely lie in wait for the next gig), trendies, Goths, untrendies and ultrafashionable peacocks gave Mr Almond a rapturous reception. The set was an acoustic affair, piano, guitar, harp (played by the wonderful Baby D, ex Anthony and the Johnsons ) of Marc’s solo work plus a few well chosen covers too. Very few if any of the songs on the set list would be that well known but only to aficionados but aficionados we all were. No Tainted Love in sight but we didn’t mind. I won’t bore you with song titles of songs that you may not know. Sometimes the fourth wall was broken by Marc coming down from the stage and performing up and down the aisles. He did say that he felt overwhelmed by the acute reverence he was getting from the audience hence the assuaging of heavy vibes by being physically present in the midst of said worshippers.
God, if you are reading my blog, take note. It worked wonders for Marc Almond.
What really electrified the audience was Marc’s acappellas of self penned Soho songs that sounded almost like folk songs. In fact, I did think they were folk songs but the lyrics belied that illusion. Lyrics of ‘Billy Fury’ and ‘Jukeboxes’ are not the stuff of Fairport Convention. I later found out that these were written and recorded only recently and are only available on CD as part of Jeremy Reed’s poetry anthology Piccadilly Bongo. Songs such as Eros and Eye, Soho so Long brought shivers to many a timber in the audience’s spines.
The evening ended with a standing ovation and an encore of the seminal Marc Bolan classic Hot Love which went down like a firestorm.
An amazing, enigmatic, beautiful, imagination-firing evening of delight and discovery. The whole evening lasted over 3 hours and I wanted every second to flow like frozen treacle. I was sorry that it ended but the art, in combination with the venue was a potent fusion ; an alloy of art itself.