New Player's Theatre, Monday 21 February 2011
Monday nights under Charing Cross are dominated by the gay club, Heaven. Opposite, the New Player's Theatre was, at best, half full for the final night of Alex Winston's first proper UK tour. With stints opening for Ted Nugent and Chuck Berry, you don't get more American - except this self-confessed Anglophile sounds like Kate Bush on an off day channelling Stevie Nicks, with a side order of Regina Spektor.
Opening act Marques Toliver played pretty melodies on the autoharp and violin, showing off his musical and vocal chops, but to get away with stream-of-consciousness lyrics of a portentous and weighty quality, you have to back it up with the genius of a Dylan or a Lennon, not the sub-Jon Anderson ramblings shown here. Given some top notch songs, Toliver has the talent to make a name for himself; it's a pity it's being squandered on a selection of truly odd lyrics.
Warming us up for the main act was Australian five-piece Sparkadia, who've had a line-up change and sound a lot like The Killers, while attempting to sound like The Police and New Order. They were churning out perfectly listenable sub-Interpol/Editors by way of Vegas tunes, but nothing stuck in the mind bar the half-decent tune 'Mary', a tune with swagger, balls and invention. If only they had more than that one good idea, eh?
Finally (and I mean finally - God knows what they were doing backstage) the restive audience got a glimpse of their idol. With a band of London boys and Detroit backing singers (who acted like a stage school version of the Supremes), Alex Winston proceeded to perform a Fleetwood Mac set tracks from her Sister Wife EP. On record, she sounds like yet another quirky pop singer, in the Ellie Goulding mould; on stage, I wondered where the 'multi' in 'multi-instrumentalist' came in. Apart from some tambourine shaking and one song played on guitar, Winston shimmied around the stage, got highly sexual with her band (she was close to dry-humping the guitarist) and sang.
In her defence - boy, can she sing. Unfortunately, the banality of the set meant that what should have been a triumphant rave-up at the end of her tour was a rather sad, desperate attempt to jazz up an uninspired crowd. You could blame it on the venue - a fixed seating venue wasn't the best place to spin your partner round and dance the fandango - but the fact that the interestingly electro tinge to her EP was stripped in favour of 1970s pop-rock backing music, revealing some fairly dull songs for what they are, probably accounts for it.
There's a bright future ahead, if she doesn't miss the zeitgeist - on the evidence of this show, I'm unconvinced.