Róisín Murphy at Royal Albert Hall review: a very creative comeback
“Am I just tripping?” a woman in an Athenian rainbow dress, floor-length dragon scale stole and wobbly velvet dunce hat asked a Royal Albert Hall crowd that included a sparkly emerald raver with a rack of sunglasses for a face and at least one Nosferatu. Well quite.
Roughly 37 costume changes earlier, as she thrust, shimmied and grinded across the stage dressed as a sci-fi druidess with an inflatable alien under one arm, we were convinced we were hallucinating Penny Mordaunt’s 4am antics at the Coronation after-rave.
In fact, this was all in a night’s art-popping for Róisín Murphy. A governess of the Björk school of onstage costumery, the Irish electropop veteran’s shows have long been quick-change displays of outlandish fashion, unafraid to emulate three-headed demon puppets, significant portions of Epping Forest or Hillary Clinton.
They’ve rarely, though, been so relevant. Murphy’s latest album Róisín Machine was her first top five solo UK hit and her recent single with DJ Koze – the cosmic easy listening of CooCool – marked her debut on independent label Ninja Tune. Recognising a revival of fortunes when she sees one, she largely swept aside the 20 years of solo material released since her 2003 split from Moloko and instead packed the set with new or unreleased tracks that sounded like a very contemporary creative comeback.
Backed by a row of beat-makers and funk-providers, Murphy’s forays into future house, tropical rave, industrial ambience, space disco and electro dub came encased in a modern psych cocoon and an inventive sense of playfulness.
Junkyard dub track Simulation (outfit: saucy space dervish) began backstage, the band broadcast on a stage-wide screen as they paraded on like a particularly psychedelic Notting Hill Carnival. Something More (black golf ball headpiece) veered into chic disco; Ramalama into something resembling battle music for the Martian military.
Can’t Replicate (human satellite panel) saw an impish Murphy pinching the air throughout the minimalist build up to its thumping rave climax. Even classic Moloko hits The Time Is Now and Sing It Back were reimagined as heady, inescapable vortex grooves, unspoilt by Murphy roaming the stage in a silver jumpsuit with mile-wide lapels, grabbing her crotch like Barbarella doing Billie Jean.
Though most of Murphy’s gauzy vocals, and with them the underlying ennui of tracks like Hurtz So Bad and new single The Universe, were buried in the mix, it was possible to catch the thematic drift of the newer songs. “I don’t believe in free will,” she sang on Free Will, for instance, creating the new academic discipline of philosoulphy.
And as she re-emerged for a flamenco-tronic encore of Gone Fishing in a golden dress that was half spanish flamenco great Carmen Amaya and half a plate of Salt Bae calamari, it was impossible not to be swept along with her infectious momentum. Even Nosferatu the vampire cut some shapes. What a trip.