Shimmering on stage in dainty red lace, Vivian commanded the space with such energy that v almost seemed to emit light. Elegant, grand and dignified, v waltzed between anecdote and song, leading us through the memories of an effervescent chanteuse, fabulously glamorous but strikingly self-aware. Just as v refuses definition in life (preferring the gender pronoun 'v' to anything pre-assigned), so too did the evening transcend the remit of Queer performance. Lightly skipping past views on gender and sexuality, love was the focus of the evening, in all its guises and all its forms. And Vivian played vessel to it all.
The Justin Vivian Bond of 2015 is a different entity from the Justin Bond who appeared at Queer Up North in 2010. There's an ease and panache that has grown in the performer, with astute effortlessness settled on Vivian's face as v confronted and seduced the audience. It is clear that as v has come to understand who Vivian is, so too has the audience been allowed to glimpse further inside the performer. There's honesty and openness now; the barriers have come down.
After a rousing Kate Bush cover, Vivian ended with the much anticipated 'In The End' from Shortbus (my date might have thrown his shoe at Vivian if v hadn't sung it, so we all left happy). But as the night drew to a close, something v had said earlier in the performance stayed with me - Vivian and David are of a similar age and v said "There aren't many Queer performers of our age left out there". In the last five years, v has blossomed into the artiste that owned the Contact stage last weekend, but there are many of that generation who weren't given that chance; to make their statement; to find themselves; to become who they were meant to be. So as decorous and demure as Vivian and v's peers have become, it shouldn't be forgotten the statement a Queer performer of any generation made - and makes still - just by being Queer, and by being a performer. Gender and sexuality is not the performance; the performance exists regardless of both. And while v's generation lost so many, we Millennials follow directly in their gracious high-heeled footsteps. And for us, Justin Vivian Bond is a trailblazing inspiration.