TOYAH + HOLLY DEANNA (CURRLS) – ST MARY IN THE CASTLE, HASTINGS 12.3.22
The music scene in Hastings has steadily been getting back on its feet this year and is starting to thrive once again. Tonight’s show at St Mary In The Castle is a sure sign of a return to normality though you could hardly describe Toyah as ‘normal’.
My first encounter with Toyah may have been as a 16 year old hearing ‘Sheep Farming In Barnet’ and being most intrigued by her, or it could have been watching her playing ‘Monkey’ in ‘Quadrophenia’ around the same time, but whichever I was hooked.
I got around to seeing her in the flesh for my one and only time at Drury Lane Theatre Royal on Christmas Eve, 1981, which was actually broadcast on BBC2 as an ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’ special. I say seeing her in the flesh but my main recollection of that night is being stuck in the balcony about as far away as you could get. I then lost my return tube ticket home, but luckily the train inspector was full of Christmas cheer and allowed me through the barrier.
Tonight was my opportunity to reconnect having lost touch with her career and was surprised to find out that she has released 16 albums, of which 11 are as a solo artist. Throw in a few compilation albums and a box set, and you have quite an accomplished music career. Of course that isn’t the end of her talents as she has appeared in over 20 films, presented on television, appeared in numerous shows, and done a fair bit of charity fundraising.
Most recently though she has reinvented herself as an internet sensation with a helping hand from her husband, King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp. If you haven’t already, then I insist that you give ‘Toyah and Robert Fripp’s Sunday Lunch’ a view without delay. This was essential viewing throughout Lockdown and they have continued this success story with their own take on a wide variety of songs ranging from ‘Too Drunk To Funk’ (a Valentine’s special) to the hilarious destruction of ‘When I Fall In Love’ to a performance of ‘Swan Lake’. This couple’s talents know no bounds as you will see from these videos where Toyah struts her stuff whilst Robert ferociously plays his guitar There are many videos on ‘YouTube’ and you would be hard pressed to find anything more enjoyable.
Toyah embarked on a 31 date intimate tour to promote her latest album on September 2nd, 2021, so it’s fair to say it hasn’t been too intense, with the longest run of shows being four nights in a row. Tonight she visits Hastings thanks to Black Rabbit Productions, for the 27th date of said tour. I couldn’t forgo this opportunity and after a 15 minute stroll down the West Hill, I found myself at the wonderful hidden gem of a venue that is St Mary In The Castle, which is a grade II* listed former Church, which was constructed in the Neo-Classical style. So well hidden that the person I was sitting next to told me how he had been searching for the venue for about twenty minutes until he found the entrance.
As Toyah bounced onto stage belying her near 64 years, I was relieved to see that she was wearing a sparkling outfit that wouldn’t have been out of place when I last saw her in 1981. Those who have seen her ‘Sunday Lunch’ videos will know what I mean especially as I was with my wife!
Toyah was gushing with praise at the lovely venue she was about to play and quickly went straight into storytelling mode, reminiscing about the last time she visited Hastings in 1984, to film ‘Murder: Ultimate Grounds For Divorce’ with Roger Daltrey and Leslie Ash. Being at the seaside, she felt it most appropriate to open proceedings with her cover of the Martha and the Muffins classic ‘Echo Beach’ and we were up and running. This was a taster of what was to come as every song was proceeded with a wonderful story relating to it, which you couldn’t help but become invested in. This was to be a career spanning gig in which Toyah has flirted with many genres of music, with a personal insight into Toyah and her love of life. I was happy as she kept on harking back to her punk days, when I first discovered her, and how they had made her what she is today. She definitely hasn’t forgotten her roots.
With this electro acoustic tour promoting her latest album ‘Posh Pop’, it was interesting to hear how every video for the songs on this album had been made at home. I particularly liked her story for ‘Space Dance’ where she talks about the love for her 75 year old husband Robert Fripp, who can play 11 notes a second on the guitar yet when it comes to dancing the twist he failed miserably. Watch the video and you will see exactly what she means.
Of further local interest the story behind the recording of ‘Ieya’ was particularly interesting as it was recorded at Parkgate Studios in Battle, during which they had to overcome a lot of paranormal activity resulting in the drummer jumping out of the first floor window.
Personally it was interesting to hear her story about the aforementioned Christmas Eve gig that I attended and the memories came flooding back of her making the stage entrance on a 40 foot ladder. She had so many more stories that I could write the longest review you have ever read, but I wouldn’t want to put in too many spoilers.
There was a nice touch from Toyah as she dedicated ‘Rhythm In My House’ to DJ Janice Long who passed away on Christmas Day. Janice had championed Toyah throughout her career and particularly liked this song as in her words “it sums it all up!”.
Highlight of the set for me was ‘Ieya’ and even though blood wasn’t pouring out of the walls as Toyah suggested happens when played live with a full band, it was still a great arrangement. Having said that I did notice the hairs on my arm stand on end when she started to sing ‘It’s A Mystery’. As with most tunes tonight they were not played identically to their original which made it all the more interesting. Her band for tonight were faultless and are obviously enjoying the tour. For Chloe Du Pre on keyboards it was a return to the venue where she played her first live concert when just 15.
For anyone who likes Toyah in the slightest this show is recommended. I attended with my wife and her music knowledge was limited to the hits of the early eighties, but she commented that in spite of this, Toyah makes you feel fully involved and with the background that she gives to each song you almost feel like you know them anyway.
This performance fully deserved the standing ovation received at the end, though a friend in the audience was quick to point out that he had to encourage some people to do so which was a mystery given the effort that Toyah puts into the show. I honestly didn’t think I would be leaving tonight’s show with such high praise but Toyah showed herself to be the consummate professional. The only thing missing was The Toyah Tribe’s reluctance to get up and dance when invited at the beginning of the show.
For all you music lovers in Brighton, make a note in your diaries that the final date of the tour is March 25th at Trading Boundaries in Sheffield Green, a mere half hour drive. You won’t be disappointed. There’s the option to buy your tickets with a dining experience or just buy the tickets only. Those purchase options are HERE.
Toyah’s next concert in Brighton will take place at the Concorde 2 on Friday 7th October 2022. Grab your tickets for that concert HERE or from your usual ticket agency.
Toyah Willcox – vocals
Matt Martin – guitar
Manolo Polidario – guitar
Mike Nichols – bass guitar/double bass
Chloe du Pre – keyboards
‘Echo Beach’ (Martha and the Muffins cover) (‘Desire’ 1987)
‘Dance In The Hurricane’ (‘In The Court Of The Crimson Queen’ 2019)
‘Thunder In The Mountains’ (Single reached number 4 in the charts, number one in Indie chart 1981)
‘Space Dance’ (‘Posh Pop’ 2021)
‘Neon Womb’ (‘Sheep Farming In Barnet’ 1979)
‘Levitate’ (‘Posh Pop’ 2021)
‘Obsolete’ (‘Anthem’ 1981)
‘It’s A Mystery’ (‘Anthem’ 1981 – Single reached number 4 in the charts, number one in Indie chart 1981)
‘Ieya’ (‘Blue Meaning’ 1980 – Single reached number 3 in the Indie chart)
‘Brave New World’ (‘The Changeling’ 1982)
‘Rhythm In My House’ (‘Posh Pop’ 2021)
‘Good Morning Universe’ (Single reached number 14 in the charts, number one in Indie chart 1981)
‘Rebel Run’ (‘Love Is The Law’ 1983)
‘Danced’ (‘Sheep Farming’ In Barnet 1979)
‘I Want To Be Free’ (‘Anthem’ 1981 – Single reached number 8 in the charts, number one in Indie chart 1981)
‘Sensational’ (‘In The Court Of The Crimson Queen’ 2019)
‘Take Me Home’ (‘Posh Pop’ 2021)
Further information at toyahwillcox.com
The evening had started off with a solo acoustic set from CurrIs lead singer Holly Deanna, and with virtually everyone having arrived for the main act, it was nice to see a support act getting full exposure.
Currls are a garage rock band from Brighton, with punk attitude and even some disco beats thrown in for good measure. Only eleven days earlier they had appeared at ‘Hastings Fat Tuesday’, (Read our review HERE) but unfortunately I had missed them playing as I was camped at The Carlisle for most of the evening. Tonight though Holly took the spotlight on her own and it was her chance to shine.
It was obvious that Holly felt a little lost without her fellow band members Kiery and Hannah and appeared apprehensive playing in front of an audience of whom the majority had little knowledge of their music. She needn’t have worried though as she channelled any nervous energy she had to produce a powerful vocal performance which filled the auditorium. I actually found myself toe tapping along from the first chord of the opening track ‘Her Name Is’ and that was to continue throughout the seven song set.
The second song ‘Nerve’ was about someone who had annoyed Holly and the next one ‘Let Down’ continued in a similar vein as the title would suggest, though she quickly pointed out that it wasn’t the same person. Holly informed us that both ‘Let Down’ and ‘April Fool’ are available on Spotify and I have already contributed my 2p, to the band by giving them both a listen and that that figure is rapidly increasing as they appear to be stuck on repeat, through my own choice obviously! Holly ended the set with a new track ‘Family Man’, and it was really encouraging to know that the band will be releasing new material soon. Definitely one to be keeping an eye out for.
I would say it’s a good sign when I’m hard pressed to pick a favourite tune from a set, but I would maybe go with ‘April Fool’ which is definitely a song I look forward to hearing live with the full band. Needless to say the set was well-received by an ageing Toyah’s Tribe. Here’s hoping Holly and Currls return to Hastings in the near future.
‘Her Name Is’
‘Let’s Talk About The Weather’
Having seen a few bands at this venue in the past, I have to admit that I had slight misgivings about the sound quality as depending on where I have stood or sat it had previously been of variable quality, but tonight it seemed like the issues have been cured. This is brilliant news as Black Rabbit Productions have arranged for some great tribute acts to play this wonderful venue with ‘Special Kinda Madness’ playing on May 7th, (Tickets HERE) and ‘The Story of Goth Tour featuring The Cureheads and Siouxsie and the Budgiees’ finally rolling into town on May 28th – Tickets HERE Bring ‘em on!
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