January 6, 2000
Welcome to songs about "crazy love and all that shit"....
Welcome to songs about "crazy love and all that shit". Dressed in electric blue, with her trademark wind-tunnel hair, flailing arms, happy-mad countenance and dance routines akin to someone struggling to stand on a cross-Channel ferry, Macy Gray has clearly had the time of her life since leaving an unappreciative USA to court Europe. She's wanted now, her unique voice is admired, record sales have been spectacular and Manchester proves willing to do its bit for this merry change of fortune, partying with the kind of intensity normally reserved for a stupidly drunken disco.
Often she repays their affection. A full-blown horn-stabbing, bass-twanging soul band in attendance, 'I Try' is as anthemic as on record; its, "My world crumbles when you're not there" refrain potent enough to stay wedged in the memory banks for decades. 'Do Something' is svelte and exuberant, the ideal setting for her Tina Turner-shaded, 24-carat diamond growl. Bumpier and distinctly more demented, 'Caligula' sees her as a relation of Ol' Dirty Bastard riding the filthiest P-funk. Striking, emotive stuff all round.
Shame, then, that at other times Macy's voice is like a Ferrari engine powering a Lada. Normally it's an occasion for us to come over superior when we adopt a US artist who's ignored in their homeland, as if we're somehow more broad-minded. But in this instance, increased bass, further input from her DJ, more of the sharp urban stylings that'd improve her chances Stateside would also be favourable here.
She's sufficiently talented to take more chances, to be more audacious without losing her housewife's choice status. Which essentially means we could do without the lumpen cover of The Beatles' 'With A Little Help From My Friends'. Also the pointless mangling of 'Whatever Will Be Will Be' and, unquestionably, her guitarist's decision to play a solo with his teeth. Sounding like Tina Turner is one thing. Basing your career on her descent into tame schmaltz is quite another.
Yet, as Macy returns dressed in gold lami, following the band's break into a JBs-style jam, we shouldn't be too hard. With only one album to her name, she hasn't got a vast back catalogue to choose from (though, just because she's chasing Euro cash, she shouldn't have resorted to such dire covers). Her insane proclamations on sex, drugs and more sex remain a scream. And, just to repeat once more, her charged singing really is something to treasure.
It's over to her DJ at the end. Beats are cut, bass is dropped and there's treasure in there, too. Having demonstrated she can roll back all the years she likes, maybe now Macy should look to a harder, fiercer, more twisted future.
To read all our reviews first - days before they appear online - check out NME magazine, on sale every Wednesday