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Roisin Murphy at the 3Olympia
The last gig I attended before the coronavirus struck hard in March 2020 was at The Roundhouse in Camden, London. Roisin Murphy was the headliner, as you would expect there was much talk amongst the crowd about the virus. None of us knew at the time that we may as well have been dancing on the deck of the Titanic, social distancing was not high on anyone’s agenda that night.
A few days later, the first lockdown was announced, and Britain got on board the not so magic roundabout of closing down and opening up. Little did we know that it would last for nearly two years. Although I always suspected that the people setting the rules were the ones least likely to follow them. History has been a harsh teacher in that respect.
It was therefore more than apt that the very first gig I attended once the social distancing restrictions were lifted completely, was by Ms Murphy herself. The musical equivalent of Alpha and Omega, as it were.
It was her first concert in Ireland since the pandemic and I was keen to see if the absence of performing had dulled her talents. I noticed that the queue outside the 3Olympia was a lot more diverse than in London, which had always tended to be a predominantly gay affair. It was a mix of male, female, gay and straight and all the colours of the rainbow in between.
My only previous visit to the venue had been for a very random night out in the last millennium. I had somehow ended up watching the band Mud, whose biggest claim to fame was the hit “Tiger Feet”. I was confident that this event was going to be a lot more memorable.
The 3Olympia is the smallest venue I have seen Roisin Murphy play, but it suited her perfectly. Originally built as a Music Hall Theatre in the late 19th Century, it has retained most of its original features including the tiered seating, balconies, and private boxes.
Any concerns about her talents being lost over lockdown were quickly blown away. It was by far the best performance I have seen from her. Every track was a banger, there were a few more hits from her time with Moloko in her set than on previous occasions but more than enough of her more recent solo work to avoid falling into the greatest hits trap.
What impressed me most of all; wasn’t the costume changes or the funky millinery. It is her uncanny ability to segue between songs without stopping to catch a breath or perhaps more importantly feel the need to indulge in mindless chit chat. The four-piece band, who were superb, kept playing and she kept dancing and singing. It looked so effortless, but I assume she works very hard to look that relaxed.
The mixture of the sound and some truly mind-bending visuals worked together to create an atmosphere akin to a club night and provided the crowd with more than enough momentum to have them dancing in and out of their seats. The security staff had the almost impossible task of preventing photos and videos being taken in amongst the mayhem.
Roisin Murphy has managed to maintain her artistic credibility for over two decades, following in the footsteps of Grace Jones and Raffaella Carra but by now an icon in her own right. Operating just below the mainstream radar and as far from the celebrity pages of the tabloids as possible. No mean feat in the age of instant and social media. Catch her, where you can.