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Concert Review by Nick Morgan
Marianne Faithfull

Shepherds Bush Empire, London
June 5 2005 - by Nick Morgan

OK, I admit it. I was going to start this review with That Marianne Faithfull confectionery joke, albeit nicely wrapped up in a sugary conceit that I’d dreamt up myself. But when it came to it, after about two hours in the company of this charming, self-depreciating, graceful, elegant and still hugely talented lady, I decided to think the better of it. It would, to say the least, have been churlish under the circumstances.

It’s just a pity that there weren’t more people there to do the evening justice. A half empty Bush – those of us with spare tickets couldn’t even give them away outside. At least on this occasion the French voted “Oui” with a strong de rigueur contingent in the crowds to celebrate this Grande Dame of rock and roll. And celebrate we all should. Forty one years and still going pretty strong – well, she had a cold, nasty cough, and by her own admission was “the size of a small bungalow” - but still managed to look and sing like an angel who’s been to hell and back (which, of course, she has). And – it occurred to me, despite the slightly over-theatrical gestures now and again, and the café chanteuse cod dramatics, and occasionally appearing (as my photographer described it) “un peu distraite”, she is a real professional. It is refreshing to see a performer who knows how to make a real entrance, and a real exit, sufficiently impressive to forgive the Monroesque and heavily pouting, “I love you all” mouthed to the adoring crowd as she departed. Yep – top class.
And although we had an evening that offered a retrospective of her long (and to be frank inconsistent) career, this is also an artiste who has just recently released a pretty decent album Before the Poison, principally made up of collaborations with P J Harvey and Nick Cave (with a few of those nasty Bad Seeds in tow too) which makes very good listening, and certainly deserves a “please go out and buy this” commendation from Serge. Critically acclaimed as possibly her best album it is however not selling well, and she’s thinking of quitting. That would certainly get a “Non” from me if I were allowed a vote. Marianne Faithfull
Supported by a pretty spunky band of New York residents, albeit led by her faithful collaborator (ex-pat ex Mancunian) Barry Reynolds, Ms Faithfull gave us a handful of songs from the new album, including the excellent ‘Mystery of Love’ (Polly Harvey) and “Crazy Love” (co-written with Cave). We went as far back as ‘As tears go by’ (hmmm) and also had (an ill-judged inclusion if you ask me) a song written for her by Roger Waters (recorded and understandably never released by Pink Floyd), ‘Incarceration of a Flower Child’. Also of dubious quality was the result of collaboration with film composer Angelo Badalamenti from her ‘forgotten’ album Secret Life. Called ‘She’ it sounded very much in the mould of that other song of the same title by that Frenchman, Charlie something. Not a good choice. Apart from the newest songs the best were predictably the hardest – ‘Guilt’, ‘Sister Morphine’, ‘Working class hero’, ‘The ballad of Lucy Jordan’ (hey Serge, what is this nonsense about driving through Paris with the wind blowing in your hair ?), the spitting and splenetic ‘Why d’ya do it’ and the fantastique ‘Broken English’, as you say.
Marianne Faithfull All in all this was a pretty impressive show from a lady who only seems to be remembered for news headlines from almost half a century ago, rather than for the handful of truly great and timeless albums she has recorded, including I suspect, the latest. Buy the album, and if you get a chance go and see her and celebrate her unique voice, and her unique and tenacious hold on life. Nick Morgan (photos by Kate)

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