REVIEW: Toyah Willcox @ Hare & Hounds, July 16th

Words by Cesilia Oriana Trecaquista / Pictures by Jermaine Lloyd

 After a day of all things Toyah Willcox (star receiving Toyah, interview giving Toyah, buffet lunch eating Toyah), I was finally going to see her in, arguably, her most natural habitat – on stage.

The Hare and Hounds provided the venue for Toyah Wilcox’s one off homecoming gig.

And, although this lady’s musical, stage and acting career has spanned some thirty plus years, I was still surprised to see Venue 2 packed out with die-hard Toyah fans; many having donned their Toyah memorabilia t-shirts and raided wardrobes for their best Goth-like attire.

Toyah bursts on stage to ‘Good Morning Universe’, from her 1982 album ‘Warrior Rock’, wearing a semi-circled spiky headdress and overcoat so bright she could have loaned it from Joseph.

My (much younger) plus one squeals “what have you taken me too?” It was to be an interesting night.

Toyah informs an excited audience, we are to “hear two sets this evening”, before performing the foot stomping ‘Rebel Run’. Her fearless and uninhibited performance includes repeatedly spinning perilously around and around, leaving me feeling momentarily nauseous.

Toyah interacts beautifully and personably with the audience, saying how much of an honour it was to receive her Walk of Fame star, and how it was to grow up in Kings Heath. Jovially reminiscing about never being allowed into the Hare and Hounds.

‘Blue Meanings’ is next, having been voted for by Toyah’s Facebook friends before the gig, and Toyah jokingly tells those who voted for the song to “f#@k off”; as she’s never managed to perform it live without messing it up.

But despite the dressing down the audience go wild, with die-hard fans holding out their hands for a simple touch from Toyah – as if she was some sort of messiah.

Also at this point, my plus-1 had it in her head that Toyah was staring directly at her (although we were right at the back of the room). “Why is she singing and pointing to me”’, she asked.

Possibly Toyah’s ability to connect with an audience, I thought, or possibly the intimate nature of the gig; but the whole room was feeling slightly obsessed. By now, cries of “I love you, Toyah” could also be heard.

Toyah’s band, a collective of varying ages, sizes and ethnicities, work perfectly together; performing an epically long version of ‘Brave New world’, which was polished, weird and yet wonderful.

Then shortly before the interval, Toyah invites Andi Fraggs (who will be supporting Toyah in the second part of her Changeling Resurrection tour in September) to join her on stage, whilst she sings ‘Thunder in the Mountains’.

The interval provides a welcome relief from all the excitement, energy and heat; although with strict instructions from Toyah to return for the second half “rolling drunk”.

Not wanting to let her down, I achieve ‘suitably merry’, and become more than willing to sing backing vocals for ‘It’s a Mystery’ and ‘I want to be Free’ – despite not knowing the words.

An encore of ‘Illusive Stranger’ eventually closes the show, leaving many free to stick around for autographs, congratulations and adulations; all of which Toyah was more than happy to entertain.

This was a night of “nostalgia”, as Toyah had wanted, yet one also grabbing the attention of a younger generation.

Looking and sounding as good as she did three decades ago, Toyah Willcox remains formidable and entertaining. A worthy recipient of a Walk of Fame star.

For more gigs at the Hare & Hounds, visit http://hareandhoundskingsheath.co.uk/

For more on Toyah Willcox, visit http://www.toyahwillcox.com

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