Hercules & Love Affair
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- Soho Revue, London »
- Hercules & Love Affair »
If the album is an intriguing mythological creature, then the live show is, very specifically, a bald-faced, dress-to-impress ‘70s strip joint. Very different experiences, but it can be hoped that both send heads into a tizz and transform even the most stony-faced into a gooey-eyed romantic.
Hercules & Love Affair without Antony Hegarty is, for sure, a strange(r) beast. ‘You Belong’ remains an erotic symphony, though without Hegarty’s echoey background vibrato thing there’s always going to be a void. So on steps Nomi, her towering presence and diva dancing offering a completely new focus. The bassist is a delight too, sliding most stealthily on ‘Blind’ which provides a fitting showcase for Nomi’s rich, mindful tones. It’s stunning live, but the fact is that it isn’t the album version. And that’s a ridiculously circular thing, because if Hegarty was there then there’d be no enigma.
Enough pondering about the absentees, for now. When Andrew Butler introduces “Mr Gayboy herself” Kim Ann Foxman, her soft, slightly flat vocals and 12-year-old-boy-at-the-school-disco shuffle fit aptly into a space. But ‘Athene’ verges on the wrong side of torrid; the brass-heavy interludes there and elsewhere are too introverted for the glamour of the live show, too stagnant for the hedonism. I’d bet that it’s the glamour rather than the introversion that’s the problem, the live show lacking subtlety and trying to compensate with overly shrill, misplaced vocals.
That’s the negatives in a nutshell – from deep within an idealist’s psyche. ‘Hercules’ Theme’ is an exception, played out in dreamlike segue form and retaining the recluse-like brute of the album. And more broadly, the way the songs ache within themselves and find the time to establish their stories is entrancing in a way I didn’t think possible.
So with all that, it comes down to some strange crux as to why the whole show hasn’t completely blown me away. It’s thrown me why I’m so confused but from what I can gather it’s because of how incongruous, ecstatic, cold in parts the album is - and stark in comparison, the live show is exertion personified. In more positive news, isolation and unity meet somewhere left of middle and the set is wonderfully structured, with a furtive cover of Blue Oyster Cult’s ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’ thrown in for extra measure. In fact, the whole shebang is almost as brilliant as it could be.
To sum it all up, I’m a confused cynic with preposterous expectations and a misplaced, self-imposed guilt trip.
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