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Billy Mackenzie Tribute

Still a highly respected cult icon ten years after his suicide, Billy Mackenzie would have celebrated his 50th birthday last week, so friends and acolytes of the Dundee-born singer assembled on Wednesday for a tribute concert in aid of the charity Sound Seekers. Videos of Mackenzie, spanning his early 1980s chart peak with the Associates and the erratic solo career that followed, played between performances.

The bill was mostly composed of Mackenzies musical contemporaries from the arty fringes of 1980s pop. Of course, nobody present could match the self-destructive singers freakish facility for octave-vaulting melodrama and sexually ambivalent glamour.

Nevertheless, the Subterraneans and Paul Haig transported us back to the postpunk vogue for angular guitar rock, while the Electric Soft Parade finished their likeable set with the bittersweet torch song Blue It Is from Mackenzies posthumous solo album, Beyond the Sun.

The German-born chanteuse Claudia Brucken, formerly of Propaganda, provided many of the evenings highlights. In conjunction with the pianist Andrew Poppy, she elegantly deconstructed Kate Bushs Running up That Hill and reworked Mackenzies sullen, mournful ballad Breakfast in a Brechtian cabaret style. Then, with her current musical partner Paul Humphreys, she shifted gear into the knowingly retro synth-pop that the duo record under the name Onetwo. Thus Club Country, one of Mackenzies biggest Associates hits, became a deluxe disco anthem.

The evenings main draw was the first live performance by the British Electric Foundation. Essentially the studio-based production arm of the 1980s pop veterans Heaven 17, BEF were backed by a clutch of musicians and guest vocalists. Sportingly, the singer Glenn Gregory strained vainly for the hysterical heights that Mackenzie reached effortlessly on the best known Associates hit, Party Fears Two.

Ending with a rowdy performance by the techno-rock trio Apollo 440, this event was well-meaning but uneven. Then again, given the chaos of Mackenzies own life, it caught a little of his mercurial spirit.