Looking down the Quaye hole

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The media coverage of broken singers has reached saturation point over the last week, with pictures and articles of Susan Boyle appearing just about everywhere. This public fascination with the decline of artistic talent and the frailty of the human soul is becoming quite obsessive in these current times. You only have to look at the coverage afforded Amy and Pete over the last few years to understand the current plight of the Scottish spinster.

All of which leads me to the sad and disturbing story of Finlay Quaye. Having witnessed his gig last night at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill it became evident after about 30 seconds that it was going to be a car crash of a performance and so it proved.   Most people will remember Finlay as the cherubic, mixed race musician who suddenly leaped to fame in 1997 with his debut album, ‘maverick a strike’, selling over 600,000 copies in the process.  His laid back, reggae tinged, melodic grooves charmed the nation along with the record industry, who awarded him a Brit for Best Male Singer in 1998.  Thereafter things started to spiral down hill….

His failure to reproduce his initial success and his incessant appetite for drug taking contributed in his gradual disappearance from the mainstream music scene.   Only releasing two albums in 12 years since his successful debut sums up the plight of this once creative musician.  Although that is only half the story…..Watching him last night amble around the stage barely looking at the audience, body contorted, arm raised in defence; conveyed a man who is battling with his demons.   Once where his voice use to purr with an effortless zeal is now replaced with a quiet and inaudible strain, relying on the power of the PA system – which offers Finlay no favours at all, the system is fraught with sound defincencies that add to Finlay’s woes by making his voice sound like he’s singing into a hole!  The band also offer no salvation with their loose, pseudo reggae barely raising the pulse – again the venues’ sound system diserves them, at times the band sound like their playing from inside a closed cupboard.

This painful motion of singing and performing is subjected to an audience who are half baffled and saddened by what they are witnessing.  Many of them offer their support with cheers of encouragement, but Finlay is so far removed from the spiritual connection between fan and artist that he barely registers any reaction.  There are fleeting moments of lucidity, the occasional glimpse of a former brilliance – but they are very few!  Here is a man who, to his credit, seems engulfed by the flimsy music, but is unable to engage or even notice the audience.  A man who looks bedraggled with fear and unable to push his musical talent both sonically and emotionally.  After one and half hours of torture I ‘m unable to take anymore – I leave the Tabernacle as Finlay comes back on for his encore – the first time I’ve ever left a gig before the end.  This fall from grace from a unique talent is too much to witness – and reminds us all of the fragility of the human spirit – especially those that seek our adoration.


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