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Birmingham NEC

She encores, of course, with [B]'I Try'[/B] and Birmingham shudders to the biggest simultaneous orgasm in history....

Birmingham NEC

Dressed like a walking jumble sale, Macy Gray could easily have been sleeping in a skip for the past six months. And when she opens her mouth, dogs in neighbouring counties run for cover. Can this really be the pop-soul phenomenon of the year? Have three million album buyers gone completely insane?

Of course not. Macy has gone multi-platinum precisely because monster office-party singalongs like 'Still' and 'I Try' are lusty, lived-in and pleasingly whiffy around the armpits. While everyone else in R&B pursues pristine slickness, this American booty queen looks and sounds rougher than a pissed-up bag lady. While everyone else pays lip service to classic '60s and '70s soul, she has revived the era's warm, fuzzy, richly melodic style with a ramshackle hip-hop twist. And no, this is not Tina Turner for Texas fans. Macy Gray sings and you simply feel elated. Only a cloth-eared indie eunuch could resist.

Macy pushes the raunch factor to the hilt, then an inch or two further for good measure. Even the no-good men lambasted in blousy blues belters like 'Do Something' are discussed in terms of sub-navel sauciness. Later, she makes 10,000 delighted citizens of "Bummingham" scream "good head" for no apparent reason. And during the unequivocally titled 'Sexomatic Venus Freak' she lists a Prince-like parade of lascivious bedroom activities while, erm, wanking off her microphone. She then shags the mic stand before collapsing in a heap, spent and giggling. That sound you hear is Lenny Kravitz packing up his guitar and joining a firm of accountants.

Can this laydee do no wrong? Only when she disappears for a mid-set hosing down, leaving her band to "jam" away for what feels like an Ice Age of arse-numbing rockwank. Rule number one in this game, Mace, is never - that's never - leave a stage full of musicians. They will only start playing jazz funk.

From the Beefeater-dressed band to the crowd-baiting chants, there's a strong pantomime element to Macy's schtick, but only in the sense of old-school showmen like James Brown or George Clinton. This is a carnival of soul, confessional therapy session and revivalist meeting all rolled into one. And although the closing karaoke medley of show tunes might suggest that Mace got too big too quickly and lacks sufficient self-penned material, she gives them a ballsy swagger anyway.

She encores, of course, with 'I Try' and Birmingham shudders to the biggest simultaneous orgasm in history. That's the Macy Gray effect. Good to the last drop.

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