Róisín Murphy’s first Melbourne show in 10 years left Moloko fans confused

Róisín Murphy’s first Melbourne show in 10 years left Moloko fans confused

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Words by Chris Lewis
Shots by Bandanna Photography

She played one Moloko song.

The Sunday gig after Meredith is a hard one to nail. You have people that are operating on three hours sleep, desperate for more hedonism despite having only seen you perform 24 hours previously in the ‘Sup. And you have the Meredith FOMOs, those who saved their ducats because they love you so much they wanted the full concert experience.

With this in mind, there is two ways to evaluate the performance of Róisín Murphy at The Forum. Within a vacuum, the Irish Robyn put on a great show. There were wacky costumes, a seamless groove and some casual Sunday evening twerking. People left the venue with smiles on their faces, gushing about how good she performed. Mission Accomplished then, yeah?

Well, it depends how you look at it, because, outside the vacuum of how the band played (very well) and how Róisín sang (very well) on the night, this was unmistakably a missed opportunity to be one of the gigs of the year. And what stopped this evening from reaching its potential was the decision by Murphy to completely ignore what the crowd wanted in favour of her own artistic vanity.

Let’s lay out some facts. As a solo artist Róisín Murphy has released four solo albums. But the last time she cracked the Top 50 here and grazed the zeitgeist was 12 years ago. So there’s no way we flew her 17,000kms to only play her agreeable electronic pop music and that’s probably why we haven’t seen her since the ill-fated V Festival in 2008.

Unless you have reached a setlist.fm level of fandom, most people would have spent their $99 on tickets thinking they were going to hear a spattering of Moloko songs amongst her solo material. And they didn’t.

But as an artist, Murphy has every right to come and play whatever she wants. Somewhat ironically she has a new song called ‘Narcissus’ and good for her. But if you’re going to completely ignore the songs that everyone adores you for in favour of shedding that former skin and starting anew, start at the bottom and play a pub gig in the outer suburbs of Melbourne for 30 punters. Don’t surreptitiously let a promoter book you to headline Meredith and The Forum if you plan on forgetting to add ‘Familiar Feeling’, ‘Indigo’, ‘The Time Is Now’ and ‘Sing It Back’ et al to your setlist.

Oh, but she plays ‘Forever More’ from Statues I hear the Murphy apologists protest. And in a way that makes it even worse. The inclusion of one random Moloko song that happens to be her favourite, shows that her willingness to separate the two artistic entities is purely built on her subjectivity. And the fact that she teases the crowd with a 30 second ‘Sing It Back’ outro at the end of ‘Exploitation’ – most of which is spent with her microphone so she can hear how desperately her fans want to hear it – is the best case of musical Stockholm Syndrome ever witnessed on stage.

But getting past the philosophical questions of the gig, it was also too single-geared. With so many electro-pop tunes at the same BPM, the set largely felt like one long pop song, albeit with amazing vocals from Murphy. But after the first ten minutes, most of the crowd just stopped dancing. At one point I heard some bloke named Earl talk about his tax return for nine minutes.

Granted ‘Overpowered’ is a banger. And got the reception it rightly deserved. But let’s be honest, Ladyhawke had three songs as good as it and would you pay $99 to hear them live in 2019? The fact that she didn’t play ‘Ramalama (Bang Bang)’, her only other genuinely huge hit as a solo artist, was the cherry on top of this overpriced cake.

Unfortunately for us, it seems Róisín Murphy seems to be a woman not yet ready to embrace her past artistically, but one who is more than happy to cash in on it. But hey, the people left happy. So maybe I’m the arsehole.