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Toyah, Acoustic, Up Close and Personal at Hippodrome Live

Published by: Clare Brotherwood on 15th Aug 2015 | View all blogs by Clare Brotherwood

She began acting at the age of 18... at the National Theatre! She has starred in the West End in Calamity Jane, in films such as Quadrophenia, and has worked with Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, George Cukor and Katharine Hepburn - who admired her bright red hair. This year alone she has made four new films.

But to a generation she is punk rock star Toyah Willcox, who made around 30 albums and won awards for best female singer with self penned hits such as Be Proud, Be Loud, Be Heard; Thunder in the Mountains; It’s a Mystery, and I Want To Be Free.

Last week she reprised these hits in the intimate surroundings of the performing space which is housed above the roulette tables of Leicester Square’s Hippodrome Casino - walking into the building was an experience in itself!

She’s also a TV presenter and only two days before I had been watching her looking for a house on the Thames. So down to earth and friendly did she appear that when the opportunity came up to see her perform live I jumped at the chance - and I’m so glad I did.

I don’t do music reviews. I know what I like but can’t tell you why, so I paid for my ticket and went along as an ordinary punter. But I was so blown away by this little powerhouse of talent that I felt I just had to let people know she is a must-see act.

Up Close and Personal is a balanced mix of words and music. Toyah bounces onto the stage declaring she’s 57 ‘so there’s plenty to talk about’ but goes straight into her first set with Good Morning Universe.

From the start I am impressed by the register of her voice and her range, which puts her into the same league as Kate Bush. She has only two accompanists, guitarists Chris Wong and Colin Hinds, but together they sound like an orchestra and, at the end of the night, the queue for her CDs (which she happily signed) is long!

What makes this night particularly special, however, is her frank, open, and often hilarious, account of her life so far, delivered with that delightful lisp of hers, and backed by videos and images of past personas. Although she still dons thigh-length boots and black leather, tonight she is blonde and almost staidly dressed, but looking at the Bowie-type make-up and plethora of hairstyles back in the day was an entertainment in itself and a definite art form.

She excels at everything she does, but what makes me admire her so much is that she’s done it in the face of adversity. Seriously dyslexic, she stormed the charts with her own songs and has written two books; she still has her own band in America and continues to show performers a third of her age how to be a rock chick, and yet she was born with club feet, one leg longer than the other and a twisted spine. She knows what it’s like to be disabled and wrote a song for the Paralympics (which ended up on a WeightWatchers ad), one line of which sums up the 5 ft little miss dynamite completely, despite the fact that she felt the need for a facelift: ‘Hey little star, you are so beautiful’.

The evening comes to an end with a standing ovation; she jokes about playing outside in the rain the following day and in the mud the next day, but adds: ‘It’s not a job. This is just Heaven’. And, as a member of her audience, I am inclined to agree.


1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 2 years ago
    Thanks, Clare. A very personal review that gives real insight into the performance and the performer.
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