“HERE’S another one of my chart topping hits,” declared Marc Almond as many times as he was able, adding an intentional note of “who, me?” self-deprecation each time. Although he hasn’t had the kind of career which would have allowed him to make the same declaration with regularity, this highly rewarding set offered far more than a by-the-book selection of familiar tracks dashed off by an artist focused solely on pop success. Almond has had much of that, of course, but it became ever more clear here that his career is really defined by a quest to explore, challenge and do new things with his gorgeously expressive voice.
Usher Hall, Edinburgh ****
His vocal was given every opportunity to shine at the Usher Hall. Touring this year’s Shadows & Reflections, the 25th studio album of his career, he was accompanied by a 13-piece band featuring small string and brass sections, as well as a perfectly-chosen quartet of backing singers who lifted and didn’t smother his voice. They bound together in a beautiful a capella beneath Scar, a track free from instrumentation, and powered through solo sparring turns with Almond on the Vel-Vets’ old Northern Soul stomper I Got to Find Me Somebody; of course, Gloria Jones’ Tainted Love, Almond’s biggest Northern Soul adaptation with Soft Cell, wasn’t far behind.
Elsewhere, those other big hits were all present, including The Days of Pearly Spencer, Jacky and Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart, the latter lacking only a little in the absence of the late Gene Pitney, while Almond’s interpretations covered Bobby Darin’s Not For Me (“I love this, there’s nothing happy about it at all”), Burt Bacharach’s Blue On Blue and a 1970s Russian ballad which he has adapted as The Sun Will Rise, an anthem for gay rights in the country. All were perfectly judged and masterfully executed.