wed 10/08/2022

Marianne Faithfull, Royal Festival Hall | reviews, news & interviews

Marianne Faithfull, Royal Festival Hall

Marianne Faithfull, Royal Festival Hall

Rock diva and recovered heroin addict makes a therapist out of her anniversary tour audience

Faithfull's greatest hits are 'as ill-fitting as her old catsuits must now be'

“I have quit smoking!” the rock star exclaims to rapturous applause, taking a luxurious drag on an e-cigarette. And the artificial smoke dissipates across the stage, revealing a 67-year-old Marianne Faithfull perched on an antique leather chair, shoulder raised and pouting as if caricaturing her own youth.

It is a subtle and triumphant reference to her past of destructive drug abuse and yet tonight quite clearly shows that for Faithfull the stage (alongside nicotine replacement and a wooden walking stick) is now her crucial crutch for rehabilitation.  

Though she fills many a musical rest with smiles, her vocal cords are soaked with melancholic history, each nodule telling its own tale of pain and hedonism. Her loveable charm and wit are ever-present and always spontaneous, but her delivery and tone in song are often monotonous, tired out by an intense self-consciousness that seems to place silent question marks over every musical phrase.  

'Last Song' written with Damon Albarn is the only true ear worm of the evening

The generic rock-style backing band, whom she passionately promotes, do not appear to liberate her creatively. Their playing is at times stiff, at others purely pastiche, and the arrangements blur into one laboured aesthetic that forgets the varied character of her back catalogue. A repertoire which once moaned over anything from lonesome electronic backing tracks to the deep grunge and sensuality of Mick Jagger and Ry Cooder is instead reminiscent of a Nineties wedding disco.  

Perhaps the intention was to lay the focus on the diva, but her repeated requests to “turn the bloody stage lights down” expose the fragility of her conflicted stage presence. And it is not until the fifth song, a version of The Everly Brothers’ “The Price of Love”, that she truly settles into the lyrics: “it costs more when you’re to blaaaame”, she sings, lingering over an American vowel, transported somewhere between Howlin’ Wolf and Elvis Presley. The song ends abruptly to make way for more anecdotal chat about her French doctor, the broken hip bones and how she chose the songs for this 50th anniversary tour via fan-based market research.  

She confesses, or revels in, her dependence on love from the audience, and their devotion is reciprocated in heckles and in patience. We are serenaded with "Marathon Kiss" and her voice is hoarse and sweet, singing “Fearless when I’m with you / What’s it all for if you can’t be right here in the room?” These lyrics could resonate with new meaning now, speaking of that audience-diva love affair, but instead she remains in an unnatural crooner default, with redundant gesticulations that try to lend meaning to her absent-minded delivery. 

Though the "greatest hits" are as ill-fitting as her old catsuits must now be, a newly-penned piece written during a period of physical paralysis is a striking social critique based on The Jungle Book and prefaced by soothing maternal storytelling. “My God how you disgust me” she spits over a rock bass riff, “Mother wolf is not impressed”. 

It is a long and probably exhausting set, designed to leave her acolytes satisfied and heartwarmed, and it ends with an unexpected musical highlight. "Last Song", written with Damon Albarn – a kindred spirit of self-deprecating Britishness – is the only true ear worm of the evening. It is her own melody, with lyrics poetic but simple, speaking of hopeful greenery and friendship. 

As the lights dim she hobbles off stage, taking pauses to wave tearfully to a full standing ovation from an audience she had at one point told to “shut the fuck up!” It’s a complicated relationship with her congregation-cum-therapist. “I’m on stage, my show! This is not a dialogue!”, she shouted with semi-ironic self-importance, and then corrected herself “…well, actually…maybe it is”. 

Paragraph 4 was edited after publication to correctly attribute the song "The Price of Love" to the Everly Brothers

The generic rock-style backing band, whom she passionately promotes, do not appear to liberate her creatively


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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An absolutely brilliant concert full of well chosen songs. Yes I think she could easily ditch the sixties stuff as her catalogue since Broken English has been so diverse and interesting why waste time with pop ditties. The wonderful Sister Morphine twinned with the equally haunting Late Victorian Holocaust was my highlight . So pleased she gave the moron on the front row a blast. She is a legend totally relevant to today and I love her. Cannot agree with this reviewer at all but then I am old enough to know that the Price of Love was done originally by the Everlys.

No wonder Marianne dislikes London based journos. She explained how she loved the Everleys at length but this writer thinks "Price of love" was a Brian Ferry cover?! She wasn't heckling the audience but one woman in the front row who interrupted her. Ed Harcourt on piano - heard of him music journo? No mention of Sister Morphine _ Victorian holocaust which was superbly delivered by singer and band alike. Perhaps reviewer is more suited to a One Direction concert?

I do not know who you are, Heidi Goldsmith, to give such a scathing criticism, I expect you were paid to be there and the show was "not your thing". I would have thought that 99.99% of the audience wanted to be there, the average age I would have thought to be 50 years or more and grew up with Marianne and her music through the years. I bought my tickets back in April and have been looking forward to this show for weeks, neither I nor my friends were disappointed, it was an event, we paid to be entertained and we were. As for the musicians, I have been to a few concerts over the years and never before have I seen artists get ovations during the renditions, the whole audience was behind Marianne and the backing group. The standing ovations summed up the atmosphere in the Royal Festival Hall, we were part of a memorable evening. (As for your research, please do your homework, "The Price of Love" was an Everly Brothers recording back in 1965). Such a shame the lady suffers ill health, in spite of this she gave 100 percent.

Hear, hear Barrie. Never was the old adage about a critic being a legless (in this case) woman, who teaches running, true… I was there, having been invited only the other day, and it was a wonderful, wonderful, evening...

Absolutely spot on Barrie.

What an odd, badly researched review. Calling the Price Of Love a Bryan Ferry song is the most telling thing, especially when Faithfull gave the song a long introduction saying it was written by her favourite songwriter Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers (and I'm far too young to remember that one, but actually listening to the performer or researching helps). Also odd to mention the backing band and not even say it included singer-songwriter Ed Harcourt, who recently gave Sophie Ellis-Bexter's career a kickstart, and renowned producer Rob Ellis. But I suppose it gave more room for gibes about a 67-year-old woman's weight and former battles with drug addiction. Classy.

How hilariously out of it can you be. The writer must've been in the bathroom doing selfies. She couldn't have been there. As an avid music fan, one has to wonder what she's been listening too at home. 90s disco? These kind of reviews are everything about the writer and nothing about the artist. ... not to mention the writing is sophomoric and shallow. Ms. Heidi should stick to something she knows about. I wonder what that might be?

Marianne was absoutely fantastic! I have assisted at about 70 Marianne Faithfull concerts so far (first one on June 29, 2002) and really have to say - each one is fantastic. The one in London was an average good concert, which means fantastic (as MF is ALWAYS fantastic). One of the few singers who makes me really spellbound! I love her voice, her songs, her personality, her charme, her whatever! Can't wait to see Marianne again next Saturday in Monte Carlo. Cheers and Love to you, Marianne xxx

Wish I could come with you to Monte Carlo.

And it's such a beautiful venue, the Opera of Monte Carlo; have a look:

Having bought the best tickets I could almost a year ago (minutes within the box office opening), this was something we were looking forward to. We were not disappointed either. Powerful delivery with a talented backing band. Just one quibble, the sound balance could have been tweaked a little but it was still highly enjoyable. I think the RFH can be a challenge to sound engineers. An interesting repertoire of songs from an Angelo Badalamenti song through As Tears Go By to Lucy Jordan. Some strangely misplaced and ill -judged (probably meant to be friendly) heckles from an audience member or two, were swiftly put down by Mother Wolf. Great night out - well done Marianne.

It was a good concert, with some great moments but it was also full of members of the audience taken up by the myth of MF.. A round of applause for the F-word uttered every so often from a 67 year old? The between song narrative (not a dialogue) was self indulgent and indicated her imperious and sometimes patronising attitude. Standing ovation? not from where I was sitting

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