Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
Billy Mackenzie was possessed with one of the most thrilling voices in pop history. Torn between punk rock hedonism and showbiz sparkle, the some-time singer of The Associates wayward legacy survives beyond his untimely 1997 death via this benefit show organised by the Sound Seekers charity for deaf children (www.sound-seekers.org.uk). Featuring a role-call of peers, colleagues and acolytes, it only occasionally resembles a 1980s package tour.
Mackenzie’s pianist Howard Hughes opens proceedings, followed by young bucks Mower. Lumps in throats don’t appear until Subterraneans, christened by Mackenzie and led by executor of his will Jude Rawlins, are joined by former Associate Christine Beveridge and ex Josef K frontman Paul Haig. Beveridge warbles Simon Dupree’s pseudo-psychedelic whimsy, Kites, while Haig, making his first live appearance in 17 years, dons a raffish guitar for a nervy run-through Josef K’s ultimate angst anthem, It’s Kinda Funny, and his own Something Good.
Former Propaganda chanteuse Claudia Brucken joins former ZTT label-mate Andrew Poppy for torch versions of Kate Bush’s Running Up The Hill, Roy Orbison’s In Dreams and Mackenzie’s Breakfast. Brucken returns with OMD’s Paul Humphrey’s as One-Two for a pumping gay disco version of Club Country and a fresh sounding take on Propaganda’s mighty Duel.
Electric Soft Parade are a charming precursor to British Electric Foundation, who ham their way through David Bowie’s Drive In Saturday, have Brucken provide backing vocals for Temptation, then turn the melodramatic swirl of Party Fears Two into a downbeat stagger bridging tragedy and camp. Apollo 440 end the night with Pain In Any Language, fittingly the last song Mackenzie ever recorded. High notes aren’t always hit, but the quasi-cabaret stylings are perfect for such era-defining music of quality and distinction.
The Herald, April 3rd 2007