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Music Review: Taylor Mac

'Performed with a wicked sashay and wink,' Missy Lorelei reviews the popular inclusion in the Arches Behaviour festival.

Laboratory tests may yet empirically prove that New York drag legend Taylor Mac makes the world a sexier place.

He emerges looking like an unholy mesh of Morticia Addams and a mermaid in long black wig and silver disc dress with Betty Grable pins, launching into a glorious cover of Tori Amos' Precious Things with poor Alistair plucked from the audience to do heavy breathing backing vocals. Indeed, there's nowhere to hide at a Taylor Mac show; it's not so much audience participation as being bludgeoned into submission. Latecomers are pounced on.

Laura Brannigan's 80s disco-fromage classic Gloria is sung by all of us ''without earnest''. Later on, three unsuspecting men are pushed to the front to represent the patriarchy as Mac gives them a serious acid tongue-lashing. It feels like satire as catharsis, a purging of every struggle Mac has experienced...controlled chaos.

It's all beautifully balanced with edgier material—Patti Smith's Birdland is scabrous with Mac's enormous voice spitting pure vitriol, and Nina Simone's anti-segregation anthem Mississippi Goddam, although performed in rollicking music-hall style, is accompanied by Mac saying that in Georgia the first racially integrated prom has finally been given the 2013. Ridiculous how far we still have to go.

His band of two men and two women are wonderful—so instinctive. The versatility of material, taken from each decade from the nineties and working backwards, is underpinned by Mac's sense of mischief; Mac and his band riff and ad-lib off each other effortlessly. He tries nice on Tea for Two, but it just becomes sexually predatory, and cannot resist transforming You Are My Sunshine into a ballad to depression. Keep the Home Fires Burning is his ''tribute to bull dykes- it's their time'', re-imagined as girl-on-girl lust when the soldier husbands are off fighting. All performed with a wicked sashay and wink.

Of course, when the quips and barbs are pushed aside, the full beauty of his vocals is revealed, and Scottish ballads, which I would otherwise find nauseating, are heart-stopping in their hushed, tender simplicity.

Another inspired choice from the Behaviour festival: possibly the most fun you can have without imbibing anything illegal or doing something indecent in public, but endlessly humane and touching, too.

Tags: event music

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