Monday, 26 July 2010

Marianne Faithfull at St Luke's

Live at LSO St Luke’s, London, 18 February 2009; broadcast BBC Four, 24 April 2009 (photo by John Chase)

Still beautiful at 62, Marianne is in town to promote her new album Easy Come, Easy Go. She’s recording a TV special before an invited audience and I’m flattered when an invite comes my way.

The audience is packed with industry people and BBC staffers, not enough of her friends and loyal fans for her taste, and she seems nervous, taking a while to connect. A huge jib camera sweeps over the audience, at one point threatening to brain a musician who forgets to duck. “It will all come together,” she assures us midway through. And it does.

‘The Crane Wife’, a cover of The Decemberists, builds to an ominous crescendo. On ‘Solitude’, a homage to Billie Holiday, she uses that lived-in voice to smoochy effect. ‘Hold On, Hold On’ is about a “very naughty girl”, we’re told, and Faithfull should know. An instrumental of ‘Mack The Knife’ – hats off here to the soloist on musical saw – seguës into ‘In Germany Before The War’. Her “decadent moment”, she calls this. Merle Haggard’s ‘Sing Me Back Home’ is a laid-back encore.

Sometimes she has to glance at the sheet music; sometimes she messes up, requiring a retake. But, hey, this was the first public outing for mostly new material, so we forgive. Backed by a versatile 11-piece band and in the presence of producer Hal Willner, she is most confident on her older numbers – the scabrous ‘Why D’Ya Do It?’, the punky ‘Broken English’ and a reconstruction of the original Sixties arrangement of ‘As Tears Go By’.

“We’re all still here,” she muses, gazing out into the audience, as if amazed at her own survival. So many have fallen by the wayside but Faithfull, rejuvenating herself continually by working with younger musicians, remains defiantly of this moment.

First published in
R2 (Rock’n’Reel)

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