Toyah – acoustic | Huntingdon Hall, Worcester, 15th January 2022
The night’s format was easy and accessible, as you would expect from our generous hostess: Toyah. A lady who is most definitely growing old disgracefully – as she openly admits herself. Illuminating narratives of the song’s origins were rolled out before Toyah and her young band offered up an urbane & naked rendition…the whole performance certainly chimed with her audience.
The confessional story of a ten-year old Toyah buying a cow-bell in Evesham to wear in 1968 “because that is what we did back then” introduced the newish track “Summer of Love”. A song Ms Willcox and her “adorable husband” Robert Fripp have a very personal connection with. The sentiment of the song – peace and love – was particularly pertinent tonight as the love in the room for Toyah was palpable. Toyah was obviously pleased to perform a near home-town gig in Huntingdon Hall and the audience was even more pleased to witness this seemingly timeless atom of energy.
Performing as a worldly veteran of the boards the performance was unmistakably Toyah. The fingers-spread hand gestures, fist pumps and those animated dance moves so reminiscent of her modish character Monkey in Quadrophenia let you know she was out to impress and entertain. The spectacle of Toyah in a silver sci-fi dress seemed appropriate, as Lemmy famously stated: “The audience want their rock stars to look like they come from another planet.” The arm dancing, knee jerks and the end of song salutes were visual punctuation to alert our Toyah was very much in the room. You only had to hear her sing…
The voice is still stylised, strong and convincing, with the singer even going so far as to hold the notes just a moment longer, just because she could!
The confessional narratives were self- mocking and self-effacing at times; the tale of semi-nakedness in Ireland was memorable. The stories of commercial triumph and human failure captivated her attentive listeners. An audience Toyah had won over before she had even taken to the stage.
On stage the young band were obviously employed for their musicianship. A band who were only too happy to bask in the hard won glory of Toyah. The throwaway line about the guitarist not knowing who Toyah was garnered the biggest laugh of the night. From my jaundiced perspective I am not sure if the members of the band were old enough to name bands from the Britpop era (sic).
The handful of beleaguered punks in attendance reflected the singer’s legacy. For the Pop-punk princess is definitely punk in spirit and belief. Toyah was informed from the “street” and was discovered in the street initially. Her first appearance on *Top of the Pops caused much teenage consternation. However, her punk credentials tonight though were greeted with a nostalgic glee. The middle-aged audience forgot they were concerned about the stranger they were sitting next to or when the car-parking ticket was running out; happy to enjoy the anthem which Toyah has become synonymous. Written whilst still at school, “I want to be free,” is a true call to arms. And for a few minutes on this chilly evening the assembled devotees did feel free, free to forget…
Freely, the old songs were complemented by the new songs from her latest album: “Posh Pop”. It was noticeable the audience knew the contemporary tracks as well as the original songs. This not always the case with heritage artists is it? Space Dance was greeted like an old friend and Levitate was met with a knowing seated sashay.
“Take me home” was the melancholy tingedconclusion that brought the metaphoric curtain down on the night. An evening that witnessed Toyah in her 63rd year flirt, convincingly entertain, tease and ultimately impress. In Blighty we respect longevity, professionalism and quirkiness…
And tonight’s distinctive performance was as quintessentially English as a Sunday lunch.
*Members of the band will need to research this arcane show on Youtube.
By: The Swilgate Scuttler