Martina Topley-Bird

The Scala, London - 29 July, 2003

"There was a terrific four or five song set in here somewhere"

[Martina Topley Bird flyer] The introductory blurb goes something like this: former Tricky muse and star name collaborator, Martina Topley-Bird strikes out alone with her unique voice and eclecticism. This means you get everything from roots and blues to more experimental electronica with a bit of chamber classical thrown in just to be sure all the main bases are covered.

The results, inevitably, vary... considerably. The soulful chilled jazz may bring her chart success and help shift units, no bad thing if she topples (no pun intended) the dreadful Macy Grey from public attention, but otherwise this direction does little to inspire any interest. At the other end of the range however are some shimmering, dreamy, chilled Björk-meets-Penguin Cafe Orchestra pieces of electronica whose welcome clean, spartan production and instrumentation style demonstrate a far more original, intelligent and ego-free creativity.

One constant throughout however is Topley Bird's pliable and remarkable voice, her engaging performance supported by an impressive backing band and three female support vocalists. There was probably a terrific four or five song set in here somewhere, but the partisan sell-out Scala crowd loved every second of every song and simply couldn't get enough. Given her underground apprenticeship and with the broadsheets claiming huge breakout potential for Topley-Bird, it will be interesting to she which path she takes; for the one she's on at the moment cannot be all things to all people for very long.

Rob Dyer