Love Spectacular | Candy RoyallePhoto - Nicola Bailey

Candy Royalle is a dreadlocked, rapping, crooning poet with a remarkable gift for stringing words together and giving them a dark, twisted edge. She’s like a lesbian blend of Tim Minchin and Eminem. Her material is political, esoteric, and brooding; it puts female sensuality and sexuality, with all its shadowy corners, front and centre. Her poetry is intricate and dense and very expressive: I wonder what you look like under your skin. Is it evident, all these dreams I’ve etched in?... I am wet with question marks. It is those that prod me.

But, despite the power of her poetry and the confidence in her own style, there were some nervousness issues during her Melbourne debut at the Butterfly Club last night. After a powerful first two poems that showcased her beautiful, lyrical voice and wowed her small audience with some extremely dark themes, she told us she was ill with a cold and getting over hives and not quite herself. I don’t know if this was the cause of the nerves, or if she’s a nervous performer in general, but she did struggle with some breath control issues and fidgeting that took away some of the power of her otherwise commanding material.

And herein lies the problem with Royalle’s work: the material is incredible and the delivery is not. I had to close my eyes for much of it to get the essence of what she was actually saying. This is often my general criticism of performance poetry – the rap-style delivery is so fast it’s hard to actually hear the words. On top of that, Royalle sways and fidgets when she’s performing, which, in such an intimate space, is too much of a distraction. Her penultimate piece, an intense, sexually charged poem about two women in a violent sexual encounter, leaves you in no doubt of her writing talent, but it would have benefitted greatly if Royalle didn’t sway or look up as if trying to remember the next line. Staring unflinchingly at the audience, as if we were her lover, would have been so much more a propos.

There are several songs in Love Spectacular, and they come as a welcome surprise among the heady poetry. Royalle uses a guitar loop pedal to record sounds and phrases and then repeat them so she can sing and harmonize with herself. The effect is fantastic and utterly unique. Her voice is deep and sensual, and again, despite some issues with nerves, (Royalle warned us several times that the finale might be a failure due to her cold) the songs were the highlight of a very unique evening of storytelling, beautifully crafted wordplay, and some very intense musings about love.

Midsumma 2011
Love Spectacular
Candy Royalle

Venue: The Butterfly Club
Date/Times: 29 Jan, 4 & 5 Feb @ 7pm
Tickets: Full $22; Concession or Midsumma/JOY 94.9 Members $19; Group (8+) $18

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