Taylor Mac is right. About a lot of things. You’d expect nothing less from a mind as razor-sharp. It’s the proverbial steel trap. He’s right about Texans, for example (or any men in oversized hats, like bishops and cardinals): they should be regarded with the utmost caution. He’s right about David Bowie being, very arguably, the mother of all art-rockers. He’s right about Tiny Tim being a magnificent failure (but, for mine, with the emphasis on magnificent).
Appearing sequinned and chintzy, he seems to me to hide behind his drag. And, despite its reflectivity and kaleidoscopic colours, there’s a certain conservatism about it. It’s pretty tame by, say, Priscilla standards. But his views, political and otherwise, thank God, are anything but. And he’s not afraid to put ’em out there.
When he toys with us, it’s all in good, if pointed, fun. His edgy, quick wit is enthralling. And who else can talk about Heidegger, while dressed like that. Speaking of thrall, his voice is powerful and visceral: there’s no pussyfooting; he really goes for it. It’s almost vicious and, certainly, vital. He attacks a song, sinks his teeth in, chews and swallows.
Of course, he’s not necessarily consistent: though this show, his first unoriginal covers homage to the aforementioned greats, is entitled, co-titled, or subtitled, Comparison Is Violence, he would seem to draw just such between Bowie and Tiny. Yet his presentation is so lively, spontaneous, dangerous, yet warm and intimate, any foibles are instantly forgivable.
But wait! Oh, woe is me. What am I doing? Why, precisely what big Mac warned us about. I’m reviewing. And that’s bad. It’s one of the things he’s right about. Critiques are valid, as they further the debate, while reviews merely constitute a buyer’s guide. It’s a philosophy I, too, have long espoused yet, in the heat of the moment and labouring under the pressure of a deadline (rather than the sheer laziness Taylor asserts), albeit ostensibly self-imposed, I all too often fall into the evil clutches of the devil, cunningly disguised as a review. It was bad enough fearing Oscar’s watching. Now I feel the steely, spangled, judgmental gaze of Mr Mac trained upon me as well.
So what did we hear? Well, Tiptoe Through The Tulips, of course. But also even more psychedelic Tim. It’s hard to believe the veritable vibrato-castrato wasn’t on something. I mean, I’ve Never Seen A Straight Banana?!
And then there’s quite a slew from Ziggy Stardust, and beyond. Ziggy, of course, harks all the way back to ’72 and Bowie’s concept album, Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars. Ziggy was Bowie’s fully-imagined and richly-realised rock star alter ego; an alien, in human form, bringing a last-ditch message of hope in the final five years of existence. As you do. Pity we didn’t listen, even if the lyrics are more than a little cryptic, at times.
Mac is a scholar in the lineage of drag, above and underground. He generously gives credit to a long list of influences and mentors. He spies, with his beady eyes, the confluences between rock, art and ambiguous gender identity.
It’s an outpouring, a rush, Niagara Falls. You don’t need crack cocaine. Just a dose of the genius of Taylor Mac.
Curtain Call rating: A+
The details: The last of four shows at the Sydney Opera House was on Friday.