Talk Talk’s frontman Mark Hollis died in February but he left the music world long before that, making this tribute evening an incredibly rare opportunity to hear his idiosyncratic music played live. Past collaborators, younger admirers and founding keyboard player Simon Brenner journeyed through one of rock’s stranger career paths, which ended after Hollis released his only solo album and effectively retired in 1998.
In the early Eighties Talk Talk were supposed to be the new Duran Duran, a possibility audible in the grandiose pop of It’s My Life, sung here by Joan as Police Woman with Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip. But they left all that behind. Their 1988 album, Spirit of Eden, caused their record label EMI to sue them for not being “commercially satisfactory” but has become a cult classic, valuing silence as much as abstract guitar work in its meandering, chorus-free compositions.
Much of it was explored in the evening’s first half, with Orlando Weeks and Hayden Thorpe, formerly of The Maccabees and Wild Beasts respectively, coming closest to matching Hollis’s black-and-blue vocals on I Believe in You and Wealth.
It was majestic, richly complex stuff. It’s a shame there weren’t bigger names involved to help Hollis towards the top tier status he deserves. However, when these all-star events can so often be well-meaning but underrehearsed, this one’s music and its delivery were of the highest quality.