The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Astor Theatre, Wednesday 10 February, 2010



The beautifully restored Astor theatre – complete with olde world balcony – is a fitting venue for this most ethereal of talents.  Marianne Faithfull has been an icon, a pop star (more than once), a model, a rock star girlfriend and plaything, an actress, a junkie, a mother, and a notorious individual every step of the way.  The 2010 model Faithful is, herself, restored – restored to health and, as she will state confidently an hour into her set, straight, and restored to her former glory as a rare and precious talent.


It’s been a long and winding road for Faithfull from her 60’s pop days dating Mick Jagger and the infamous and apocryphal “Mars bar incident”, to performing as part of International Arts Festivals around the world in 2010, and every step of the journey shows on her instantly recognisable face.


Which is not to say she is in any way haggard – she remains a handsome and attractive woman, the lines on her face merely show the character gained from a life lived to the full (if not always lived well).



The lights dimmed and the seven piece band took their places and started the intro to ‘Times Square’, before Ms Faithfull hobbled onto the stage – she damaged her leg in a fall UP some stairs at her hotel yesterday – bowed gently and then… that voice. 


That fine, unique voice, craggy from a hundred thousand cigarettes, yet honeyed and full of wasted elegance - much like one of her long time sparring partners, Keef Richards.


“This is the last night of the tour, so we’re going to enjoy ourselves”, she announced politely before introducing a wonderfully smoky ‘Down From Dover’, written by “the great Dolly Parton”.


The setlist was a mixture of her own songs, and covers of songs by The Decemberists, Neko Case, Randy Newman, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Stones & Morissey, all made her own by the crack band and that magical voice.



As if her voice wasn’t reminiscent enough of Richards, at times in the subdued lighting she almost resembled Richards dressed in “Tootsie” drag.  A woman of contrasts, she is delicate yet steely determined, abrasive yet deferential, beautiful yet weathered.


Her 70’s hit ‘Broken English’ featured a blistering solo from guitarist Leo Abraham, which Faithfull acknowledges, encouraging the audience to applaud his efforts, a gesture she will repeat protectively and nurturingly each time her band members do a solo.


“Are you alright?” she asks after ‘Crazy Love’, the song she co-wrote with Nick Cave.  “Good, me too.”


The heavy grooves of BRMC’s ‘Salvation’ were introduced with a little tale about how she was practically a founder member of that band on the strength of “a silly little movie” she made in the sixties called “Girl On A Motorcycle”.


‘The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan’, surely Faithfull’s most instantly recognisable and finest song, remains a fantastic, haunting and evocative number and the audience favourite tonight, was followed by her two Rolling Stones classics – icily chilling junkie anthem ‘Sister Morphine’ and ‘As Tears Go By’, introduced as “this is the one that started the whole thing all those years ago – and I’m glad it did else we wouldn’t be here now”.



As she adjusted her stool she felt the leg pain kicking in “Oh yes, it’s beginning to hurt now”.  After a pause she smirkingly added a quietly confident “No drugs.  Straight!” to a peal of laughter and applause.


And after one more track (Morrissey’s ‘Dear God Please Help Me’) she was helped off stage and that was it – despite the lights staying down and rapturous applause for more than five minutes, no encore.  In fairness to her, she was injured and could have cancelled outright, yet it is a testament to the quality on display that everyone present wanted more.


This was a lovely, intimate evening with a rare and precious talent in a surprisingly affable and pleasant environment, and celebrated a sporadic recording career spanning 5 decades and some legendary classic songs.


by Shane



Times Square
Down From Dover (originally by Dolly Parton)
The Crane Wife 3 (originally by The Decemberists)
Hold On, Hold On (originally by Neko Case)
Broken English
In Germany Before The Way (originally by Randy Newman)
Crazy Love (co-written with Nick Cave)
Salvation (originally by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club)
The Ballad of Lucy Jordan
Sister Morphine (originally by the Rolling Stones)
As Tears Go By (originally by the Rolling Stones)
Dear God Please Help Me (originally by Morissey)