Toyah @ Holmfirth Picturedome
Another blast from the past, Toyah was a denizen of the charts and Top Of The Pops in the early 80’s, with a string of electronica pop hits, wild hair and makeup, she great fun to watch. She is also Mrs Robert Fripp to add to the intrigue. Having missed a more local show earlier in the year it meant a trip up into the hills to catch her live.
The support band, Beautiful Mechanica, had already started when I arrived. Their music is wrapped up in the 80’s with a Depeche Mode electronica/synth pop sound, also reminiscent of Our Daughter’s Wedding too. Listening on SoundCloud their music is quite interesting although a little dated. Live, sadly, they didn’t cut it for me. Musically they were fine but the vocals were a little flat and a little disjointed at times. Special mention must be given to their keyboard player, Porcelain, who looked to be heavily pregnant and playing live!
Toyah bounded onto the stage in Holmfirth like a wound up little bunny with masses of energy that needed to be unleashed for 90 minutes, impressive for a lady approaching 60 (yikes) and still acting like the wild child she was in the 80’s. She looks great and she maybe wild but the wild hair and equally wild make-up are now gone… but the great thing is her voice is still there, operatic at times too.
And along with the boundless energy came a rapid fire song list with hardly a moment to catch her breath… opening with Good Morning Universe sounding just as good as it did in the 80’s, bless her, this is what everyone had come for. She followed this with what I always thought was a big mistake, a cover of Echo Beach, and this performance was like a mix of her version from ’87 (a very minor hit) and the Martha & The Muffins version – and it sadly didn’t really work – but normal service was then resumed with Be Proud Be Loud (Be Heard) with Toyah really working the crowd.
Although a punk princess, her music is grounded in 80’s synth sounds even when she plays songs like Neon Womb along Race Through Space from her début EP Sheep Farming In Barnett which she dedicated to all the punks in the audience. It’s difficult to believe her when she sings Ieya with it’s lyrics 'Fear me, Fear the beast, Fear me I’m the beast as she is just too nice and happy!' From beasts she moved onto the subject of lost love with Brave New World following it with a Toyah-ised version of These Boots Were Made For Walking which again left me a little empty, the woman has released fifteen albums so it isn't like she is short of her own material.
Turning to In The Court Of The Crimson Queen from 2008 she performed the excellent Sensational with it’s heavier beat and nod towards Madonna but live still keeping that 80’s edge. Over to The Changeling and the song Dawn Chorus, which she explained was for men when they are at their happiest when they are dancing. Time for another cover… Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell which the audience really got into but didn't really work for me although it did give the guitarist in her band, Chris Wong, a moment to shine with a cracking solo. This is something that is missing from her show as a whole because it is all about the collective performance rather than about individuals.
Jungles Of Jupiter with its beautiful synth intro and reggae-ish style bridge was wonderful to hear again and Toyah continued to work the crowd and bounce around the stage like she did for the whole show. Her energy and enthusiasm was infectious and it continued with probably her biggest single It’s A Mystery which not only got the largest cheer but saw more people dancing to it.
The encores weren't really encores, the band took bows and then continued playing… another hit I Want To Be Free saw the Picturedrome erupt into dance which continued with the final song Sweet Child O’Mine, yep, you read it right. It has been part of her set for some years now but again it begs the question… why?
Overall a resoundingly great performance from Mrs Fripp, I just wish she would concentrate on her own material though.
Words: Anthony Firmin | Photo: Frederick Apps