Fraulein Sasha de Suinn reviews Marc Almond & Immodesty Blaize, Hammersmith Odeon. 5 Stars!
What separates scene-stealing queens from dumb, bonehead heterosexuals, so cluelessly chav-tastic that Katie Price is their Marlene Dietrich? In one word, panache, darlings! Equipped since birth with the most super-sensitive instinct known to humanity for detecting the extraordinary, outré, kitsch and baroquely erotic – barely the tip of a queeny iceberg! – gay men live, breathe and furiously fornicate in search of the fabulously improbable!
And to that end, their sense of taste – sartorial, aesthetic, culinary and sensual – is rarefied to a degree usually only found in the feverishly inbred prose of one Edgar Allen Poe, and, more specifically, the poster saint par excellence of his shockingly incestuous aesthetes; Roderick Usher.
Cursed – or blessed, perhaps? – with hearing, vision and touch so hyper-refined that the slightest sensations create perverse tsunamis of mingled pain and delight, he’s brilliantly caricatured by Rocky Horror doyenne Richard O’Brien
as the Baron Hellsebubbulus in the straight-to-video trashflick Elvira’s Haunted Hills. Still, screw fading camp icons way past their sell-by-date – with the regrettable deaths of Bowie, George Michael and the meandering, artistic irrelevance of Boy George, it’s still the mercurial Marc Almond – as unpredictable as ever! – who continues to electrify fans with the contents of his Technicolour closets!
Beyond that sole exception of Bowie – his great and enduring muse – Marc’s continued to dwarf his musical friends, rivals and enemies with a twisted, harmonic finesse that constantly transfigures the most obscure, unlikely and sometimes, even shocking sources into enduring, signature moments of melodic bliss.
Sure, arguably, that period of Marc’s greatest pop pomp – that untouchable, Tainted Love/Torch period, culminating in the masterful, gnashing froth-and-bile frenzy of Torment and Toreros – may have passed, but Marc – as uncannily prophetic with regard to all things gay as ever – has even anticipated, and artistically catered to, the maturing life-choices and ageing of his core audience.
Disappointing? For some, yes, but frankly, it’d be impertinent to expect Marc to be frozen in artistic aspic, to ignore all the changes and growth in his life, and still remain the tortured, tormented Goth troubadour of yore, processing emotional pain with the forensic panache of a CSI sadist. For better or worse, Marc’s public persona is now a jolly, lairy, end-of-the-pier turn of a once mildly risque artiste in the fading autumn of their outrage. Still, appearances – especially in the LGBT universe – are deceptive, and the slightest ruffle of Marc’s present placidity can reveal the ferocious, Venus Man-trap within! Theatrically, it’s simply gorgeous, jaw-dropping, artistic schizophrenia, an apparently precious poseur abruptly morphing into turbocharged, alpha male machismo, a high-end, Bugatti queen high on consummate buggery!
So – when he chooses to – Marc fabulously embodies the double-entendre, Julian Clary attack-dog of his peak, a boisterous sexual mania he ravishingly explores with pure, bollock-thumping bliss! Effortlessly sliding from the deranged, rockabilly raunch of Jacques Brel’sJacky to the fetishistic frenzy of That Dress and the creepy, psychopathic narcissism of Sinatra’s Strangers In The Night, Marc’s acute sense of screaming camp flawlessly strings together the subliminal manias linking his set-list, as admirably as a secretly poisoned pearl necklace on an unsuspecting debutante!
Which brings us, quite suitably, to the billowing, cellulite-cloud charms of the plus-size, stripper princess Immodesty Blaize, universally – but surely, ironically? – lauded as neo-Burlesque royalty. Quite pitifully, Immodesty embodies the ultimate cliché of compliant, passive femininity that many straight men, inexplicably, find irresistible, especially if that preferred, stereotype lacks the facility of independent thought! But don’t cry on Immodesty’s behalf; the high-camp sensibility tonight is meticulously selected and viciously targeted by ring-master Marc, with drooling straight men completely unaware they’re the butt (in both senses) of Immodesty’s humour. She is, in fact, a very arch laugh at ridiculous sexual clichés shockingly easy to parody, that totally British, Carry Onmind-set that infantilises raw, dangerous, adultsexuality!
And truly, Marc – and the adoring gay men and women forming the majority of his fan-base – are the only sexual adults present tonight. Like it or loathe it, the sad but shocking reality is that a huge proportion of heterosexual men (and some women) remain emotionally immature their entire lives, obsessed with objectified sex and seizing spousal security at the expense of inner lives. Quite pathetically, it’s up to Marc to spoon-feed his adorably vacant straight fans the tokens of desire – such as Modesty – that they recognise and respond to, but frankly, my watching tolerance turns to withering contempt when these massed, timid mixed couples even need Marc to cue and green-light their dancing to Strangers In The Night!
My God – is heterosexual courtship, lust and desire really so lame? Based on the evidence ofthis gig, the answer’s obviously a resounding yes, but how thrillingly ironic and empowering does it get when Marc – a feisty cocktail of urbane Noel Coward and raunchy Joe Orton – can orchestrate killer signposts to heterosexual hearts like tonight’s Tainted Love and Say Hello, Wave Goodbye, both re-arranged with the woozy, semi-amnesiac euphoria of prime GHB? This, surely, is the glorious subtext of current gender diversity; straight pop idols aren’t worth the contrived, media lies to desperately click-bait their laughably dreary lives. Christ, no wonder increasingly savvy platform divas – Madonna, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, the list is endless – suck mutual chick-lips for maximum exposure; no divas – male or female – know the human heart or rules of attraction better than the exhaustive self-examination pioneered by hardcore, heaven-sent homosexuals. So rave on, Marc Almond – you’re the perfect, pouting Mick Jagger for the gender-fluid generation!