Whilst Marc Almond very skilfully took on special cover versions of ‘Torch’ songs for me it was the new arrangements of his own work – going back to Soft Cell and the Mambas – that make this a special night. His rendition of Scott Walker’s In My Room is a melancholy masterpiece, a paean to loneliness and forlorn longing. Then he makes his own mark on Billy Fury’s laconic lament I’m Lost Without You, another anthem of lost love. These ballads benefit from the orchestral and choral backing from Leeds College of Music Contemporary Orchestra and Pop Choir, simply sublime.
The lesser-known Shadows on My Heart is equally passionate and profound, once more emphasizing the maturity of Marc’s vocals compared to the Soft Cell and Mambas days. There is more nostalgia in Bobby Vinton’s Blue on Blue, another tale of the heartbreak of absence and loss with a simple but effective setting. Marc changes the gender of Tini Yuro to make another portentous track with a lover lost in regret and remorse and unable to let go.
Lotus Blossom was apparently originally going to me called Marijuana but the ‘fantasy’ could just as easily have been a love affair as a transient ‘high’. Covering Billie Holiday’s I’m a Fool to Want You may seem a tall task but, with the aid of the orchestra, this is a triumphant success. Marc also takes on Ella and Louis’ Willow Weep With Me, slightly more upbeat but equally bleak and black at heart, replete with a fantastic trumpet solo.
Marc also is quite capable of a bit of crooning as seen in his take on Sinatra’s The Shadow of Your Smile, full of sad memories. The depths of despair are dug with the suicidal Gloomy Sunday, also covered by Bjork. This is despair and depression at its ultimate conclusion, the end of it all, but strangely cathartic. From his classic ‘Stories of Johnny’ album comes The House is Haunted which even has a reference to a ‘torch singer’ with its ghostly apparitions and persistence of memory.
‘Heart of Snow’, Marc’s Russian album, is one of my faves, even if it does remind me of a particularly ugly break up. Glances of Your Dark Eyes is typical of this period, all about obsession and futile longing. From his latest album ‘The Velvet Trail’ Marc offers Life in My Own Way – this time with a lover moving on and disdaining an ex’s amorous appeals. Again a superb arrangement.
The pace quicken with the Soft Cell classic Torch, a torch song par excellence. Of course we all know and love Something Gotten Hold of my Heart, once a duet with the late Gene Pitney, and from now on the show becomes a heart-rending sing-a-long. For me the highlight of the show is the upbeat autobiographical Jacques Brel song Jacky which literally bursts the orchestra and Marc’s vocals at the seams.
The finale treats us to Say Hello, Wave Goodbye and inevitably Tainted Love. This is a night that will go down in Leeds’ musical history and all credit to LCM (Marc calls them the’best musicians I’ve worked with’) for instigating such an excellent enterprise.
Reviewed by Rich Jevons on 8 July 2016 at Leeds Town Hall.