Slinking on stage to the deep house of ‘Simulation’ with her best breathy Donna Summer, it’s instantly clear how Róisín Murphy was so irresistible to the super producers of the 90s as frontwoman of Moloko.
Now, as she kicks off a tour of global festival dates in the summer she turns 50, it’s non-stop creative play for the Irish musician and her fans. Who, as it turns out, all got the memo to emulate her far-out frippery at last night’s Royal Albert Hall gig in London.
Her devotion to dance music is at times gladiatorial. In this amphitheatre of 6,000 – a sell-out – the amassed pleasure seekers were hers for the taking. Tracks from 2020’s immensely enjoyable and first top five album Róisín Machine included ‘Incapable’ which fizzed through to its climax. Plus, the sexy monotony of ‘Something More’, which was interpolated with ‘Let Me Know’. Then, out of nowhere came ‘Ramalama (Bang Bang)’, a major highlight in all its tribal weirdness. “Unzip my body, take my heart out,” she sings. “Cause I need a beat to give this tune.”
With a seductive purr that will take some straight back to the summer of 1999, her nod to ‘Sing It Back’ came complete with a Jetsons-esque silver jumpsuit… With paper aeroplane collar that could’ve flown her up to the RAH’s acoustic mushrooms. The costume changes and stagecraft prove Murphy’s in it for the full dance floor experience. But, with a sixth album on the way, it’s the music that’s the star. Pop continues its love affair with disco but this is a rawer more authentic take from a club scene visionary. She refused to be subservient to the dignified presence of this grand dame of a venue instead using the stage to show off new tracks: a swelling ‘Free Will’ and ‘The Universe’. Plus, some welcome soft coo-ing on electropop ‘CooCool’, a DJ Koze collaboration.
Murphy’s strength is in movement. She strutted, stalked, high-kicked, crab-shuffled and Running Manned her way across the stage. And just before it gets wildly flirtatious she dips into her avant-garde dressing up box of props stage-side. (Hats, sunglasses and even a shiny alien to cavort with.) The looks remind us she’s Mickey Murphy’s Daughter. As she once said: “People think I go out of my way to be a weirdo. But that comes out of me naturally.” Perhaps a diehard Eurovision fan? Why, she makes Finland’s entry look embarrassingly pedestrian.
Such was her enjoyment she hesitated to leave the stage. She came back twice after a delicious groove of ‘Flash of Light’ you didn’t want to end – nor did it for some time. As with many of the thumpers this 2012 single was extended and broken down. But end she did on an encore of the delicate and moving ‘Gone Fishing’ and ‘Unputdownable’ from the Mercury Music Prize-nominated Hairless Toys. Creeping off stage with her band around her, who were taut and tight throughout, as screen-cam captured every last note was a sweet moment for the audience. A vortex so inherently trippy you can’t help but be sucked in. Thank God for Roisin.