At the top of Thomas Street, just on the corner of Tib Street stands an anomaly. It’s a public house called ‘The Millstone’ and it’s drastically different from all the other pubs and bars that live within the tragically hip area known as Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Unlike the bright young things that buzz around the likes of ‘Apotheca’, ‘Odd’ and ‘Common’, the souls that haunt The Millstone are far older and wearier. I went in there for a quick pint just before heading over to one of Manchester’s newest venues to see Lene Lovich, when I got talking to an old bloke. Almost every night at the Millstone seems to be Karaoke night and each time a new singer started to sing he’d turn to me and laugh “Golden oldie, you can’t beat em”. The thing was he was right because there are some records that attach themselves firmly in the memory and become virtually impossible to dislodge.
Dry Live can be found directly underneath Dry Bar, a place previously owned by Factory Records (FAC 201) when of course the label was synonymous with Manchester, but tonight it bares witness to the remarkable, one and only Lene Lovich and her band, who are made up of Subterraneans frontman (guitar) Jude Rawlins, (bass) is Lydia Fischer, (drums) Morgan King and keyboardist Kirsten Morrison.
It’s a decent place, indeed appropriate for someone like Lene Lovich (Detroit-born post-punk pop singer, who scored a number of hits in the late 70’s) who after considerable years of absence has the longing to get treading the boards and play her music once more to an audience. There’s a fair sized turn out, with many long established fans, that have come to see how she fairs and there’s excitement in the air, an uproar of cheers when she slowly emerges wearing a lurex puff ball mini dress, and brothel creepers, crouching down, inching her way onto the small stage, face hidden by a large black and diamanté encrusted scarf. It’s a mysterious but cool start, and, as the band begin to whip up a storm the scarf is whipped away to reveal the strange face of Lene Lovich in all its odd glory, complete with husky voice, and unusual high pitched vocals.
I’ve always found Lene Lovich to bear all the hallmarks of the outsider, and tonight she looks just as weird as she ever did, with her Rapunzel plaits and kooky mismatched clothing. As her nervousness starts to dissipate and her movements become more confident and pronounced, it’s not hard to see that venues like this are where Lene Lovich belongs, you start to get the distinct impression that the stage is actually Lene’s natural habitat and it’s not just a place where she puts on an act.
Of course the crowd are treated to their favourite like ‘Birdsong’ ‘Say When’, ‘You Can’t Kill Me’, and ‘Wicked Witch’ but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the song that everyone was waiting to hear was ‘Lucky Number’. Lene told Mudkiss in a recent interview that the popularity of this record was both a blessing and a curse, but it surely can’t be a millstone around her neck when it’s played with such joy tonight. Some records are indeed golden and will also continue to shine for as long as people want to listen to them, and tonight all the crowd are more than eager to listen.
Lene leaves to the crowd’s cheers and make a brief return for an encore then that’s it. Another step on the comeback trail successfully taken and let’s hope she keeps moving onwards and upwards heading to the Rebellion punk festival this August, where she is one of the headlining acts.Review by Phil King