Alison Moyet doesn’t perform her hit song “Invisible” anymore. (And hasn’t for eons.)
As she tells the Toronto crowd, hilariously, conversationally, and in a way that should head off any moaning: She doesn’t do it anymore for a couple of reasons. One has to do with being comfortable with one’s natural accent rather than the style the song was sung in. The other? In her 50’s the singer no longer feels like longing (pining?) about a man (that’s an asshole). (The exact quote was not caught due to roars of knowing laughter from the crowd).
That song is just one of Moyet’s many across a broad body of work. “Invisible” was a major hit in the U.S. In Canada, however, and in Toronto, particularly, we’ve always had at least one ear open to the U.K. when it comes to musical quality and news and do not learn about notable British music via our neighbours south of the border.
If anyone is caught up on one song in a repertoire this interesting, unique and broad, they’re not really here. What really matters is that beyond the front packed section of die-hard fans in this unseated main floor is that there’s a middle layer of the Toronto people we live to see and have missed: they have room to dance, and are doing so with abandon like we haven’t seen since some time in the 80s. The party is right here: full of straight sweethearts and LGBTQ couples enjoying themselves. And legendary Yazoo Synth-pop tunes are as crisp and fresh as they were when they once blasted out of our beautifully indie radio stations, our exciting new music television, our school dances and our world-class nightclubs. “Situation” has lost nothing over the years, it is absolutely transformative. Imaginary (once so dreaded but, also, inevitable) smoke from smoke machines seems to envelope us for 5 minutes.
The biggest of the Yazoo-era songs for this crowd has to be “Don’t Go”. The mini-dance floor erupts, as hands rise from all over the Danforth Music Hall. The people who might have wanted a seat are now the envy of all in the balcony. This is one of those songs that Toronto always claimed as ours and has stayed in our blood. It erupted from car sound systems on the Danforth and Bloor Street cruising nights, from high school parking lots, from basement rec rooms. It existed outside of visuals, almost pre-music video, that’s how it felt: we projected ourselves onto those keys and oh, that voice. If only.
But. Ask any fan in a big city who still prioritizes seeing the greats on tour formed in the 80s: this is not nostalgia. It is nostalgia for five seconds when you first/finally hear that iconic tune played before you live, but thereafter is recognized to be endless, relevant, influential, iconic, classic. And it’s high time our generation(s) recognize the 80s artists for what they were (and ARE). Our own British Invasion. Our sweeping Gothic romance complete with rolling moors and dark romance. Our happy, cool, messy anti-Woodstock, in darkened rooms with lifetime loves or with strangers. In grimy rock clubs and eventually, towering nightclubs. Each night a success and a memory, never recorded by cameras that just didn’t work in nightclubs and were beside the point of youthful living, then (and now, try it). Those of us who valued that will always put the camera phones and the thoughts of social media posting mostly away in times of real music like this. Brief exceptions are made for connecting with friends or exclamations that state how utterly speechless you are with happiness. One photo. But that’s all.
And Alison Moyet’s range, as her legions of devoted fans know well, is far deeper than her biggest hits or her earliest records with Vince Clarke (later of fellow Synth pop legends Depeche Mode and Erasure). There’s 9 solo albums in addition to Yazoo’s two. Tonight, across 21 diverse songs, there’s real artistry at work, a vocal queen who can rightly call this an instrument. There’s depth that could form the backbone to stage a production in London’s West End or Broadway. There’s aspects of Moyet’s voice that are highly evocative of Bowie, an artist never far from fans’ minds these days. There are Torch songs. A word we forgot about. There is a tradition of Synth Pop here that has evolved in Moyet’s signature style with a one-of a kind bluesy voice, and most of the show is an utter bop. And as we take it all in, having just seen shows in recent weeks by some of the biggest names in pop, we realize that Yazoo, Alison and Vince, might have actually invented our entire era’s notion of a banger. Or as we called it then, a club anthem. A dance floor filler. A dance floor killer.
A personal favourite slow dance classic ” Only You” (come on, Tim and Dawn at the best ever Office party) is played early on and it is thrilling. It is such a sad, yearning song and is so beautiful. Moyet introduces the exciting “Nobody’s Diary” from Yazoo’s second album, as a song she wrote at the age of just 16. “The Man in the Wings” is one of the show’s many expert shifts of mood, into a torchy-ballad that demonstrates Moyet’s softer side. “Changeling” from 2013’s The Minutes is a crisp, urgent, slickly produced fresh dose of Electronic music with a big payoff in the chorus when Moyet’s vocal acrobatics soar. It reminds us we’ve got some new records to buy from this icon.
The current tour continues through the United States, Ireland, Scotland, throughout the U.K. and European cities until the end of the year. Alison Moyet’s official site.