Music: Uncomfortable in the mainstream
Finley Quaye Shepherd's Bush Empire
Friday 27 March 1998
Shepherd's Bush Empire
Having won the Best Male Singer at the Brits (doubling his debut album sales immediately), it is under a jeans sponsorship sign that trend-setters, teenagers, and broadsheet readers cram into crevices to see . In six months, Quaye has reached the mainstream, but a string of broken engagements and interviews, cancelled gigs, and public spats with his nephew, Tricky, lends itself to the conclusion that it is not a place he wants to be.
Support at the Empire comes from newcomers and NME favourites, Bedlam Ago Go, who look like a squat party - dreads, peroxide and anarchic head banging. They prepare with a loping bass line, like Portishead or Massive Attack, but with melody and lightness via high-pitched vocals and a reverence for mental guitars, laced with contemporary beeps and loops. The glowing tip of a joint heralds Finley's arrival, in a bizarre ensemble of yellow tie, blue shirt and black gloves. He is clearly trying to resist one tag - sex symbol.
It is a shame with such a big following for his heads-down music that people have to crane their necks to see him. Mainly playing material from the album, most given the dub or reggae treatment, the urge in the audience to sit down is prevented by the mesmerising performer in him, turning from the stage with his ambling, loose-limbed dance. But the face which has been plastered over billboards recently no longer looks at the crowd with the amused glint in his eye of his Astoria gig last October, but glances up, quickly with a touch of fear.
After ten minutes, it's time to re-light his fire. "What's you like man?" he says, as if asking it of himself. But later it is to the audience that he poses the question, asking if they know "Even After All" as the slower, acoustic version, with changed tone and different message, becomes a song about society rather than pop-confectioned love. The underlying question seems to be: do they still enjoy it?
By the middle of the set, he finally begins to look more comfortable, mocking in a falsetto voice about how dreadful it is having a spliff. Maybe the spliff is making him feel more comfortable. He looks his best in this world - a dreamy place seen through slitted eyes and soulful expressions. It isn't until the last few songs that the tunes which have moved Quaye up the charts, "Ultra Simulation" and "It's Great When We're Together", are played. Having rocketed to stardom within six months, Quaye isn't going to pay for the fuel himself, and the emissions of marketing and accolades means that the boy named after the Celtic for sunshine, appears to be under a cloud.
's cancelled 21 March gig at Shepherd's Bush has been rescheduled for 1 April
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