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Culture Reviews
Moloko
Hermitage Garden 
“I’m sorry but I only know one word in Russian – its ‘moloko’”, joked Roisin Murphy to a lively Moscow crowd at the Hermitage Garden last Thursday evening. Well that was fine by us, because it was Moloko we were there to hear!! As the rain clouds cleared to make way for a beautiful May evening, the band took to the open-air stage and treated their audience to a spell-binding performance that’s not likely to be forgotten.

If you only know Moloko through the pop anthems ‘Sing it back’ and ‘The time is now’ – I suggest you go and listen to their latest album ‘Statues’. If you’ve never heard them live – I strongly suggest you get a concert ticket as soon as you possibly can! In fierce contrast to the critics who have called them ‘Trip-hop chancers’ and ‘Popstar wannabes’, Moloko have proven themselves to be capable of producing some of the most daring and interestingly eclectic sounds of the past few years. And to see them on stage will literally leave you screaming for more!

Can you tell I liked it? The thing is - I would have loved to have hated Moloko. I have a bit of a snobby attitude towards the charts and anything labeled as ‘pop’!! But I stand corrected!! Though, to describe Moloko as a ‘pop’ band is in my view, merely for wont of a better word. Their music contains elements of trip-hop, rock, dance, 60’s soul, funk and yeah…ok….pop. But it doesn’t conform to any rules and certainly doesn’t fit within any of those definitions. Plus, as opposed to most pop artists, these ones are actually oozing with talent!

The band came into being in 1994, after Dublin-born Roisin Murphy sidled up to music producer Mark Brydon at a party in Sheffield and asked the now infamous question: ‘Do you like my tight sweater? See how it fits my body.’ The pair soon embarked on a love affair and a musical collaboration which have tested both their personal and professional limits. 8 years after their aptly-named debut album ‘Do you like my tight sweater?’, ‘Statues’ tells of the end of the romance but testifies to the on-going strength of their creative energy.

Fine. But what about the concert? Well, the setting was delightful, and the crowd reminded me of the kind of trendy audience you would see back in Britain – none of the typically Russian OTT fashion victims!! It was a nice number, big enough to create an atmosphere, but small enough for the whole concert to have quite an intimate feel. Even a short sharp rain shower didn’t quash the good vibe: people just danced with an array of multi-coloured umbrellas bobbing up and down above their heads!

The music was performed using a clever mix of live instruments and electronic samplers and keyboards. The guitars and drums formed a base to which Mark added various beats anddistortions and even symphonic strings, creating an intricate and powerful musical ensemble – original, modern, high quality stuff. But the music seemed like a painter’s canvas – a worthy backdrop, waiting to be brought to life by the master’s touch.

In effect it was Roisin’s impressive vocal talent and mesmerising presence on stage which lifted the concert to levels of excellence. She was incredible. In a single breath she could seemingly effortlessly switch from soul diva to rock chick to choirboy! She sang faultlessly throughout all of her mischievous capers on stage: lying on her back holding her fishnet stocking-clad legs in the air, sprinkling herself with rose petals, goose-stepping across stage in a policeman’s hat, flicking off her stilettos (nearly blinding the sound engineer!!), drinking, smoking, dancing, bending over patting her behind… She was note perfect! She never faltered!

She self-admittedly “likes to dress-up”. Now whereas for your average pop star this would mean changing from one ultra-trendy outfit to another, Roisin chose a range of accessories varying from a silver biker’s helmet and oversized goggles, to a gold magician’s cloak, an outrageous theatrical headdress and an antique fur shoulder piece complete with tails which swung as she moved! Brilliant!! We just couldn’t take our eyes off her! No matter what she wore, or how she danced, she was sexy, sassy and stunningly beautiful. You could tell she was enjoying herself, and so that infectious energy permeated the crowd, who in turn, fed their enthusiasm back to her. This interaction culminated in a moment which sent not only the audience but the security staff wild: with a cheeky grin and a simple question “If I jump, will you catch me?” she threw herself off the stage into the arms of the audience below! As soon as she was back on her feet – she did it again!!

Despite all the fun and antics, the highlight, for me, was when the band played the album and tour title-theme ‘Statues’: Roisin just sat, without looking at anything or anyone, and sang the hauntingly beautiful song with such bare emotion that it sent a shiver down my spine and brought a tear to my eye… Powerful stuff indeed! After the finale of the much-awaited ‘Sing it back’ the crowd whistled and cheered and were rewarded with an encore in the form of the heavy, imposing beats of ‘Ramses-Colossus’. It was a fitting end to such a hefty performance.

We all know that there are many levels of nuance and meaning to the Russian language. But I can tell you that for me, and everybody who was at that concert on Thursday night, the word ‘moloko’ has now taken on a whole different dimension!

26.05.04
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