Martine McCutcheon – Islington Assembly Hall – 14.11.17

As the nation invites Martine McCutcheon into their front rooms in the annual fashion – alongside Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson and the rest of the Love Actually cast – the lady herself has been preparing for a much more intimate soiree than a Richard Curtis blockbuster.

Over a decade after her last studio album, she made a surprise return to the Top 20 this year with Lost & Found, and opened her live show with three new tracks from it. A brave move by any artist, but this intimate audience (for reference, it’s a 800 venue) are SUPER fans, and have been waiting for a chance to see MM live for years. “Some of you I’ve met today have said you’ve waited as long as me for me to do this again,” she says in one of many chats between tracks, and these work best when they’re unrehearsed and the real EastEnder comes out: She takes a moment to describe a moment of her life as being “a bit like adult magic” before realising how it sounds. “Only I could try to say something beautiful and make it sound like something from the gutter.”

While focussing on Lost & Found, the set doesn’t ignore her past, however sometimes the hits are shortened and taken away from us too soon; a bit like Tiffany Mitchell’s life. I’m Over You, I’ve Got You and Talking In Your Sleep (3 top 10s in their day) are put into a medley, while her musicals album, Musicality, is ignored completely, potentially for the best. Having said that, The Winner Takes It All or Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend could have gone down a treat. Martine and her band (featuring her husband, Jack McManus, who we have to thank for her return) aren’t afraid of covers, however, closing the set with Toto’s Rosanna. “We haven’t rehearsed it – it’s just a party.”

With a few empty seats up on the balcony, it was almost as if Islington wasn’t aware that it had a star of the screen (both big and small) and stage in their presence – the LGBT community certainly got the memo, however, which gave me a genius idea: The petition starts here to get Martine McCutcheon to next year’s Mighty Hoopla. She could take the Sophie Ellis Bextor slot from last year, and this could be how her career continues; balancing new material without forgetting the old, and embracing the wishes of fans who want to hear the pop numbers from over a decade ago while still having the freedom to write and record. Imagine the setlist:

I’m Over You – because we didn’t get to hear it all on the tour
Say I’m Not Alone – a newie, but the track from the new album that brought her back
I’ve Got You / Talking In Your Sleep – we can have one “mash up”, don’t want too many ballads
Any Sign Of Life – let’s not make it a complete nostalgia-fest… A rockier new one.
Perfect Moment – imagine it; thousands singing along, Martine shedding a little tear
On The Radio – Ending on a high note, mirrorball and Sink The Pink joining for this disco classic

It might not be the Hollywood career that once seemed possible, or the huge Kylie-like soap-to-pop star career that could have followed her debut entering at #1, but on this stage tonight, performing new material to a room of adoring fans, it looks like Martine McCutcheon was having a bit of a Perfect Moment, that even Frank Butcher skidding in in his Beamer couldn’t end.

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