LIVE REVIEW: Roisin Murphy, London Roundhouse, 16/05/15

Roisin Murphy has always self-identified as a visual artist, and has certainly never left an audience in any doubt of that when it came to her live shows. From the muddy sunsets of Glastonbury Festival to Moloko’s mammoth Statues world tour, every performance over the years has been a feast for the senses. You just know that investing your hard-earned cash in Roisin Murphy tickets is always (always) money well spent because she never gives her audiences anything less than 100%. For this, we will always say thank you.

However, with more than a seven-year hiatus since those final nights of the Overpowered tour, we can’t have been the only veterans feeling both curious and apprehensive about what to expect. Hairless Toys is a complex record, and perhaps not as immediately accessible as some previous Ro-pop offerings. The associated persona, with all her complexity, secrecy, and code-words, seemed impossible to get close to.

But on Saturday night, at Camden’s belter of a Roundhouse, all the delicate pieces fell into place andthe meaning of Hairless Toys was truly revealed. Roisin Murphy is a very special kind of songwriter; it feels like she creates her music with live performance and personal connection with her crowd in mind. So without that piece of the puzzle, her music can be just, well, puzzling.

We were craving emotional completion after listening to the new album, and the paradoxical vulnerability and fierceness that Murphy projects from her stage is an all-consuming experience that provides just what we were looking for. It’s hard to imagine how such an accomplished and celebrated live performer can feel at all nervous, though her genuine thanks throughout the set suggests that we might not have been the only ones with pre-gig jitters.

Opening with a build-up of whirring house beats, the room was blown away by a solid and diverse two-hour set that seemed to satisfy the equally diverse audience. The track list had it all; a few little golden nuggets of reference for the hardcore Molokoids, a couple of re-worked treats from Ruby Blue and Overpowered, a touch of Italian glamour and a massive breakdown of soulful house opus Jealousy, all alongside tight arrangements of the new material that felt right at home with one another. Vocally stronger than ever, this was an awesome showcase for newcomers and a fix that satisfied the cravings of the old timers like us.

Needless to say there were outfits aplenty, everything from teddy bears and overcoats to something that can only be described as “disco car wash” – it has to be seen to be believed. Aficionados will also have spotted Hairless Toys’ producer Eddie Stevens holding everything together, keeping it weird with a mannequin’s head on a spike overseeing the synth section (some things are better left unexplained). Stevens has been a regular fixture on Moloko/Murphy tours for the best part of two decades so everyone can be confident that their live listening experience is in exceptional hands.

Even those who were avoiding the standing-only main auditorium floor found it impossible to keep still, with the majority of the tiered balcony seats abandoned and replaced by very organised rows of enthusiastic dancing people. This crowd left the venue feeling unified, giving love and being loved in return. That’s unusual, and it’s what makes the Roisin Murphy experience so addictive.

Nikki Gandy

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LIVE REVIEW: Roisin Murphy, London Roundhouse
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