Photos by Neil Van
Anticipation for Roisin Murphy’s gig Wednesday night was so rabid that show ended up being moved from the intimate confines of the Mod Club to the much more generous Phoenix Concert Theatre. Hot on the heels of her recent Take Her Up To Monto album, the former Moloko member kicked off her North American tour before a boisterous full house.
The Irish singer-songwriter’s pop is not your regular from-the-mill pop. Over the course of four albums, Murphy has crafted albums that demand attention and refuse to be relegated to being background noise. After an 8 year break following the release of her criminally underappreciated 2007 album, Overpowered, Murphy has been on a roll the last couple of years with last year’s Hairless Toys and a highlight from this year, Take Her Up to Monto.
Much like her albums, the Murphy live experience also demands, but rewards, full attention. Accompanied by four musicians, Murphy opened the night with “Mastermind” which also opens the new album. The sound was on the quiet end so it didn’t have the initial impact I hoped, but Murphy made for a unique focal point with her outfit. How many people have you seen come on stage and perform rocking a handbag, aside from drag queens?
Over the course of over 90 minutes, Murphy touched on all her albums but the debut, with most coming from Hairless Toys. For those pining for the Moloko days, she offered up a handful of songs from her previous incarnation. Sound-wise, the band filled the room nicely when performing on guitar and drums, while the purely electronic songs were noticeably quieter.
The songs from the last two albums are not traditional dancefloor stormers, but were transformed on the stage to make the crowd move. I did find it hard to dance though given Murphy was constantly changing her look on stage, from different masks, glasses, wigs and dresses all providing a distinct look for each song. Some songs got two looks. And this was all done while she performed. No running off stage for this professional, and not losing a beat while she was at it and her voice sounded fantastic all night.
The highlight of the night came at the end of the main set with “Exploitation” that featured a healthy snippet of Moloko’s hit “Sing It Back” that had the entire floor jumping. A mind-melting finale ensued and that should have been it. The band did come back for an encore including Hairless Toys’ “Exile” and Moloko’s “Pure Pleasure Seeker” but she didn’t have to. Either way, a blissed out crowd roared out their approval and probably could have used an additional 90 minutes.