Pop review: Marianne Faithfull, LSO St Luke's, London

LSO St Luke's, London

It is almost compulsory to love the idea of quintessential rock survivor Marianne Faithfull, but harder to be crazy about the real person. The ravaged voice that makes her an object lesson in the dangers of hedonism palls more quickly than you would think in a live setting - even when the setting is an austerely beautiful church with cameras filming it all for broadcast in April on BBC4.

Faithfull was promoting a new album of covers, Easy Come, Easy Go, and admitted to fears of "fucking up" at its first public performance, but 40 years as an actor have stood her in good stead.

In any event, there was little opportunity for mistakes in a set that required her only to stand at the microphone and sing, backed by low-key strings and brass. It was the singing, however, that was hard to handle after a while. Her voice has coarsened, confining her now to one low register. Striking and characterful, yes, when matched with enraged, punk-inspired material such as the infidelity songs Broken English and Why'd Ya Do It?, but hard work when delicacy was called for.

Surely it can't be right for a singer to strain and heave through Duke Ellington's heartbreak ballad Solitude and her own angelic 1964 debut, As Tears Go By.

The effortfulness created only the wish to hear them sung by someone who could have navigated their nuances more subtly. But Faithfull made a witty and wise host, and there is much to be said for an artist who presents her unvarnished self so unsparingly.


Caroline Sullivan

The GuardianTramp

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