Roisin Murphy, The Dome, Brighton, Wednesday 28 November 2007
In interview, Roisin Murphy appears not to suffer fools gladly. Direct, single-minded and occasionally a little belligerent, she comes across as a strong women who is in total control of both her art and her career.
It’s surprising, then, that her live shows reveal an individual who seems riddled with insecurities. It’s certainly the case at this opening show in support of her second solo album Overpowered, where her glamorous poses and supermodel poise are undone by awkward dance moves and embarrassed smiles and glances.
Such contrasting personality traits have always been at the heart of Murphy’s work. As one half of Moloko she milked these opposing forces of the dance-floor weirdo and the pop starlet to startling effect.
Live, however, these schizophrenic dynamics show a performer with a need to remain in complete control. This, despite the fact that her current music is built around a sense of jouissance – the out-of-body bliss of dance-floor pleasure.
Murphy’s displays of such free-spirited states of mind are tempered by her faux-celebrity performance. So pounding acid house-meets-disco beats are explored through a series of on-stage costume changes. These range from the high-couture judge for “The Truth” to the pantomime Gestapo princess for “Tell Everybody” and “Ramalama”.
The costume changes give Murphy the image of someone in need of constant reinvention. But then that is what this show is all about. The set is almost entirely drawn from her new album, while the only songs from the previous Ruby Blue set, “Sow Into You” and “Ramalama (Bang Bang)”, get a disco makeover.
As the band thunder through a performance that updates the soul revue to excellent effect, Murphy slips between personalities, proving herself to be one of the UK’s most interesting pop stars at the moment.
Her stagecraft draws on these various character traits to present an inspired observation on the split personality at the heart of the music industry. The stunning “Overpowered” finds her playing both puppet and puppet mistress, while the lone Moloko song “Forever More” sees Murphy joining her backing singers to become one of the girls, rather than the star of the show.
Endlessly inventive, beautiful, smart and blessed with a gorgeous voice: on the face of it Murphy is the perfect pop star. But as this performance showed, the obtuse side of her refuses to play the pop game according to the industry rules.