Friday, September 5, 2008

The Listening Booth: Alison Moyet

This installment of The Listening Booth coincides with the subject's announcement of her first US tour in 14 years - and the procurement of my own 2nd row seats to see her live on October 10th. I'm talking about, of course, the incomparable Alison Moyet.

If you grew up in the early 80's, you doubt heard this incredible UK songbird's pipes, first, as one half of the synth-pop duo Yazoo with Vince Clarke of Depeche Mode and Erasure fame, and then as a brilliant, award-winning solo artist. Her 1984 debut album, Alf, spawned several hit singles in the UK, including "Invisible", "Love Resurrection", and "All Cried Out". After her follow-up, 1987's Raindancing, which featured the pop gems "Is This Love?" and "Weak in the Presence of Beauty", she stepped back and began the long struggle to regain artistic control of her career. But while 1991's Hoodoo and 1994's Essex were the start to that creative independence, an unsupportive Sony Music and subsequent protracted legal battle brought an eight-year hiatus to Moyet's career.

She eventually won, signed with Sanctuary Records, and re-emerged in 2002 with Hometime. That was followed up the sublime The Voice, a flawless collection of covers including "Windmills of Your Mind", "Cry Me River", and "Alfie". In late 2006, she signed with W14 Music, a new Universal Music Group imprint, and released The Turn in August of 2007.

Sadly, Moyet isn't as well known here in the States outside of her Yazoo affiliation as she is in England and other parts of the world. In the summer of 2008, she reunited with Clarke for a series of well-received, sold-out reunion dates. And, now, she's coming right back to the US with her first solo tour in over a decade, promising to perform songs from most of her catalog (the inclusion of the pop-slick Raindancing material is still in question).

I was only fortunate to see Moyet live once. It was back in the early 90's right after the release of Hoodoo. She performed out here on Long Island on a Tuesday night (September 24th, to be exact), as part of WDRE’s Modern Rock Fest ‘91 at a little sports bar called Mulcahy’s. Although sharing the bill with The Innocence Mission, The Judybats, and Richard X. Heyman, it was altogether clear just who the audience was out to see as shouts of the British songbird’s name permeated the air throughout the night. After a rousing set by The Judybats (which was capped off by a raucous tribute to New York women called "All I Wanna Do Is Fuck Your Hair"), it was announced that there would be a change in the evening’s line-up; Moyet was reportedly feeling “under the weather” but would still be performing. Sandle-footed and garbed in head-to-toe black, Moyet took to the stage ahead of The Innocence Mission to perform an acoustic, five-song set.

Opening with the autobiographical "Ordinary Girl" (from Raindancing), Moyet thrilled her fans with selections from Hoodoo, including "Wishing You Were Here", "Rise", and "It Won’t Be Long". The unexpected high point of the set came as Moyet treated the audience to a mesmerizing cover of Jacques Brel’s "Ne Me Quitte Pas". Moyet is truly a seasoned live performer (in her heyday she sang to sold-out audiences at Wembley Arena) who knows how to captivate a crowd. It is a confident performer who dares to push their voice, stripped down to the most basic acoustic accompaniment, to the forefront, and only a remarkable voice could withstand such raw scrutiny. Alison Moyet met this challenge with seeming ease and gave a flawless, albeit much too short, performance.

But one thought always remained following that abbreviated performance one rainy night in September back in '91: if that was how Alison Moyet sounded live while feeling under the weather, I could only wait with baited breath and hope that it wouldn't be long until she’d be back on stage with a full-length show and feeling 100%. Well, I've waited 17 years for that opportunity and will find out on October 10th when she brings her tour to the old Westbury Music Fair (now called North Fork Bank Theater or something equally as commercial and bland).

So, here's a little taste of this luscious vocal powerhouse, whose marvelously deep and husky voice rattles your emotions and makes every hair on your arm stand up!

Her mesmerizing rendition of "Windmills of Your Mind" from The Voice:

Also from The Voice, "Cry Me a River":

From her debut solo album Alf, the smash "All Cried Out":

1 comment:

B-Sol said...

I LOVE her version of the Coventry Carol. My favorite Christmas record of all time.