It was something of a homecoming for Alison Moyet last night as the Billericay-born and Basildon-schooled vocalist played nearby Southend to promote her 2013 album The Minutes.
The last time I saw Moyet she briefly joined another Essex dweller Wilko Johnson and his band onstage for a joyous encore at the latter’s “farewell” concerts. This time around there is no band, only a minimalistic electronica set up and a suitably impressive light show: Moyet is flanked either side by two synth-playing chaps. On her right stands the musical director, John Garden – a man who resembles a younger, slimmer (and dare I say more talented) brother of Fletch from Depeche Mode. On her left, on excellent backing vocals and Derren-Brown-in-a-waistcoat impressions, stands Sean McGee. It’s an interesting aesthetic.
What was good about last night’s performance was the strength of the new material from “The Minutes” – an album which went to number 5 on the UK album charts on release. Opener “Horizon Flame” is an austere and dramatic scene-setter. Moyet looks down with imperiousness surrounded in dry ice and vari-lights as if challenging those in the crowd only wanting to hear “karaoke versions” of old songs: “something I don’t want to do” she tells us whilst introducing an excellent version of “Only You” with minor progressions. Actually the old songs were here too – with an early “Nobody’s Diary” fitting in snugly between the newer material. Indeed, the older material benefited from the electronica setting, as you might expect from a performer who, with Vince Clarke and Yazoo, was there at the forefront of electronic music in the UK. By the same token, some songs from the new album would be equally at home on the recent London Grammar album.
Of the new songs, “When I Was Your Girl” stands out with its dramatic chorus, whilst “All Signs of Life” turns into something of a dance wig-out at the end. “Changeling” is excellent, and sees a guitar make a fleeting appearance in between some nice synth-squawking, which I believe to be a technical term. And, best of all is “Filigree”, a song which Moyet explained is about when we jump too soon and miss out on small moments of happiness, inspired by seeing an art-house film in a cinema in Amsterdam which gradually emptied out before the film’s best and most inspirational moments.
“This House” from 1991’s Hoodoo album meanwhile remains a fine song and was sung beautifully.
Whilst the set ends with the audience on their feet and dancing to those old songs from early albums, “All Cried Out” and “Don’t Go”, for me another highlight of the set is a song, appropriately from Moyet’s “Essex” album. “Whispering Your Name” is a tour de force: Moyet belts it out in some style. To be fair, this is a song so good – especially with Moyet singing – it could be played on a washboard bass and skiffle board and it would sound amazing. With the synths it was just sublime.
Alison Moyet plays The Royal Albert Hall in April 2014
Record :249: Alison Moyet – Filigree
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