Leo Condie Sings Brel and Brecht
A showstopping Brel tribute from the Low Miffs frontman
This article is from 2013.
The basement of a former church in Orwell Terrace is an airless, charmless box. Within it Leo Condie, former frontman of the Low Miffs, performs songs by Jacques Brel (with one Brecht and one Pet Shop Boys thrown in for the crazy hell of it) with so much brio the polystyrene ceiling tiles vibrate in their metal strips.
In ‘The Drunkard’, he’s the steaming guy holding the lamp-post, downing several plastic cups of water. In ‘Next!’ he crosses his legs to describe queuing up to lose his virginity in a whorehouse truck. It’s brittle, but with a touch of Alan Cummings' quixotic pixieness. Two factors allow this show to soar way above the other cabaret wannabes flogging their angst around the capital. One is Condie’s pitch-perfect persona. He is just stagey enough: arch, a tiny bit camp, always on the right side of purple. There is no expositional chat. Just fantastic songs – ‘Amsterdam’, ‘My Death’, ‘The Gas’, ‘It’s A Sin’ - sung with an extraordinary vocal range and the occasional flash of Edinburgh accent.
The second joy is the musicality of the arrangements. Condie is joined on stage by a couple of Miffs and three other talented musicians. Cello and violin add a lushness to counterpoint Brel’s earthy subject matter. Saxophone, tuba and French horn round out the sound, sometimes pointedly discordant, at others poignant and rich. Unlike some other Brel performers, who can overpower the audience with frenetic emoting, Condie shares the job with the rest of the band. They add to his interpretations while giving them room to breathe. Their changing brass instruments and hunting for sheet music adds a shambolic edge. The result is thrilling and exhilarating and just fantastic.
Note to cabaret tent bookers: track down this man with all urgency. Now.
The Acoustic Music Centre at St Brides, 668 2019, until 16 Aug, 5.30pm, £10–£12. Run now ended.