I LOST MY VIRGINITY while a boom box played Jimmy Somerville and Marc Almond's cover of "I Feel Love." In art school, I created a musical about a psych-ward talent show, using songs by Almond. My novel's protagonist obsessively quotes and dresses like Almond. I ran Almond's Internet mailing list in the mid-'90s. I have been waiting for this concert since 1982.

Which is probably the last time anyone in the U.S. thought much about Soft Cell's eyeliner fop ("Tainted love, woo-ohh"). Almond has actually had a prolific solo career as songwriter and crooner, with a global cult of rabid fans and sporadic U.K. hits keeping him stocked in sequins and Ecstasy. His music twists cabaret through industrial, goth, Latin, house, country, rock, and disco incarnations. Jacques Brel's widow called Almond among the best interpreters of her husband's work. Slinking from gut-wrenching original ballads to soul-searing classics by Lou Reed, Lee Hazelwood, or Scott Walker, Almond doesn't so much wear his heart on his sleeve as shove the palpitating, bloody mess down your throat.

As related in a new autobiography, Almond has lived the life he sings about in "Slut" and "Sex Dwarf." He's rubbed his naked body with cat food in concerts, smashed up record company offices with a fire extinguisher, threatened a music critic with a bullwhip, bar-crawled with Freddie Mercury, nearly died from a heroin OD, and smuggled drugs. Twice he's been accused of making pornographic videos, and was recently invited to cameo in a real one by friend Bruce LaBruce.

Kicking drugs and shrugging off record company demands have resulted in Almond's best album in a decade. Open All Night matches Marc's unique vocal style with complementary production rather than sterile synth programming. The moody, sexy, late-night trawl through dives and dens of iniquity dresses up smartly in stripped-down blues, jazz, and triphop. See the guy the U.K. press has called "living proof Jean Genet fucked Judy Garland," doing what he does best.

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