We live in tumultuous times. Arguably, though, this is always the case, to a greater or lesser degree. Music – especially live music – can provide the perfect, unifying salve, as we come together in communal celebration. Alison Moyet’s performance at the Brighton Dome was the perfect illustration of this. A full house, rammed to the rafters, settled down readily and attentively to the uncharacteristic and unexpected spoken-word opener, ‘April 10th’, from Alison’s summer 2017 album Other. From an empty stage and unseen pulpit – for the band had yet to appear – came Alison’s soothing, spoken voice over a hypnotic soundscape, like a relaxation tape of old. She has come a long way from her 80s, mainstream origins. The familiar electronica is still there – the sparse, icy yin to the yang of her warm vocals – but she has bloomed into a poet proper and her latter-day lyrics evidence this, as does her wonderfully entertaining tour diary blog. Make no mistake – this is a sophisticated writer of great maturity and skill.
So, to the music. Flanked by the impressive duo of John Gardner and Sean McGhee on synths, backing vocals and occasional guitar (former) and bass (latter) Alison seemed surprisingly, and pleasingly, at home, for a self-confessed, stage-frightened limelight-shunner. “I’m here!” she sang repeatedly, in the apt and arresting opening number, ‘I Germinate’, hanging her mighty vocals on the comparatively brittle, but equally bold, electronica scaffolding. Those of us who’ve been knocking around long enough to remember Alison’s early days, pre and post-Yazoo, can only revel in her deserved evolution from awkward-feeling, punk-influenced outsider, to all-commanding diva, via bouts of debilitating agoraphobia and draining record label battles. She is here, alright, and she is in the driving seat and thriving, as evidenced by her gleeful interjections between songs. Barely able to contain her excitement at singing before her adopted home town crowd, she took pains to point out how Brighton is the first place she has ever felt at home, and accepted, and whole (cue big audience cheer!) It is both relevant and poignant that her latest album is called Other.
The setlist was a well-sewn patchwork of old and new, from Alison’s earliest foray into songwriting, aged just 16 (‘Nobody’s Diary’) to the accomplished ‘Ski’, co-written with her husband, about ultimately futile parental concern for a child, via stone cold classic ‘Only You’, arguably one of the greatest love songs of all time. In her own (blog) words, the setlist “Is a tricky balance. Pace. Emotion. Tempo. Challenge and reward”. The Brighton set was a total triumph, tracing a 40 year trajectory, from naivety to nuance.
Seeing Alison Moyet perform live is a wonder. You’re confounded by how she makes so much of so little. Her instrumentation has always been a stripped-back sound of minimalism and understatement, while her voice adds the seemingly contradictory, and yet complementary, drama and magnitude.
The gig highlight was hearing over 1,500 people enthusiastically sing “We all need love” in unison, as Alison belted out her jubilant 1984 top ten hit, ‘Love Resurrection’. The original accompanying video to this song depicts a Middle Eastern encampment, with a veiled Alison wandering through the surrounding, barren desert landscape. So we ended where we began, with a gig book-ended by human unification, echoing Alison’s own words between songs at one point that, “We all belong together.”
Photos by Georgie Gibbon