24th March 2016
It's No Mystery
Toyah Willcox strode onto the stage looking resplendent in a kaleidoscopic
Oriental smock above a gold long sleeved top and in thigh length boots
over black pants. Her frizzed blood red hair of her prime, now a less
outlandish strawberry blonde, complementing her attire. She joined both
her duo guitar and vocals backing, Colin Hinds and Chris Wong, before
thanking the 80 - 90 strong audience for coming out on such a miserable
Visibly thrilled and gobsmacked to be at such a venue, she enthused 'we
usually play grotty clubs'. Also on stage was a laptop and video screen,
which she used to project key images of her varied acting and singing
careers when appropriate. But it was the songs that the crowd had primarily
come to see and hear Toyah perform, and when she launched into Good Morning
Universe the memories started flooding back. Now 56, her voice was not
as visceral as it once was, but came over loud and clear.
The first of her stories related to a school visit when she was 12 by
a certain female prime minister, which provided the catalyst for her punk-fueled
notoriety. She secreted five alarm clocks to go off at 5 minute intervals
in the hall where the visitor's speech took place. Not many personages
can have caused the speaker more disruption than that!
The next song Obsolete was to herald the transition from pop to rock,
and fiery and fiesty it was. The 1982 Be Proud Be Loud Be Heard produced
some fist pumping for the first time and her 1981 hit Thunder In The Mountains
had the diva in tremendous voice, her octave range still there as she
danced along to the lyrics.
Graciously she related that she wanted Sensational to be the theme song
for the Para Olympics(she had a twisted spine when very young). It was
turned down and became a vehicle for Wait Watchers instead, not quite
the 'burning super nova' intended. The 1994 Jungles Of Jupiter had a touch
of Bjork falsetto and Kate Bush histrionics with the guitars strutting
musically as much as the stage presence fronting them.
It has not all been gold and platinum discs though. Her acting career
had her rubbing shoulders with Katherine Hepburn and Directors George
Cukor and famously Derek Jarman; but she deigned not to mention the standout
role she performed as Miranda in the Tempest. It was all so pleasant that
it took the shock of Dawn Chorus (1982), all about wasp waisted corsets
and dancing 'Chardonayers' in the heat of the night, to curtail the reverie.
Track effortlessly followed track. The Rebel Of Love lyrics, all urban
warrior, angry, bitter, twisted and ignored stuff; a cover of Billy Idol's
Rebel Yell in the same frame; Sweet Child of Mine from Guns And Roses
was more mellow but extended her tonsils and gave the guitars a chance
to enjoy themselves.
I Want to be Free! an anthem for all those locked in claustrophobic and
stunted existences, (or worse), is still an antidote to be blasted out
against dumbing down and political correctness. Finally Ieya (Perfect
Sphere, or not?), is what she always ends on for an encore.
It had to end, but an anecdote of performing in 1981 Belfast during 'The
Troubles' lingers in the memory. The crazed youngish crowd stormed the
stage and left her in only bra and panties; but more importantly by robbing
the microphones they ensured the concert was abandoned. 'Don't do it here,
Liverpool!, she tempted. There was no danger of that, as this crowd would
have kept her on stage until morning.