Thurston Moore, Paris, Gaité Lyrique, 11th december 2011

Exactly four years that day since I last saw the Sonic Youth leader, Thurston Moore was presenting his latest LP “Demolished Thoughts” to the Parisian audience in the black cube of the “Gaité Lyrique”. Amidst communication that his married relationship with Kim Gordon was over (therefore giving uncertainties to the future of the band), Thurston appeared with a tie and jacket (full of tissues, peppermint, medicine,…well everything except the guitar pick he was looking for!) with four other musicians in a singular band composition : two acoustic guitars, a harp, a violin and a drummer. The guy was as funny as always, pulling the leg of his drummer calling him a communist (the red guitar pick!) or introducing him as the famous Johnny Rotten on drums.

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His last LP is really nice and peaceful, which is a rare thing for a Sonic Youth member. It is produced by Beck and one can feel the relaxed mood for which the producer has been famous with in his recent work. However, even if music was nice and all, something was missing and almost a bit boring sometimes. The worst tracks were the ones where he did the usual Sonic Youth feedback never-ending tricks, which for me did not work out of the electric context. However, when the songs were short and concise, there was a real craftmanship and a few of them were really great. Here is the video I took of the song “January” :

A mixed concert then to finish the year as indeed that was the last show review of the year. I hope you my beloved blog-readers enjoyed reading them all as much as I did writing them, with little talent but great passion and enthusiasm!

Stay tuned though for the last post of the year that will come soon, the one the whole world is looking for : I am talking about the famous best-of-the year LIST! Coming soon!

Daniel Darc en trio acoustique, Collège des Bernardins, Paris, 7th December 2011

Not sure if this relevant to write in English this review of Daniel Darc’s recent show as he is not famous outside of France…but as music is universal and as he should be known everywhere, let’s go for it !

Daniel Darc was the lead singer of 80’s French pop band Taxi Girl known by a whole generation of party goers at that time (the other core member of the band was Mirwais who went on being famous later when producing Madonna’s best ever LP “Music” in 2000). After the band disbanded and a regular start of solo career, things went adrift and Daniel Darc began his dark years (lost, drug-addicted, homeless,…) and disappeared from the music world (and almost from life as we know it).

Like just a few beautiful losers and a few great artists, Daniel Darc came back from the dead, thanks to the help of Frédéric Lo and went back in 2004 with a great LP named “Crèvecoeur”. Next LP “Amours Suprêmes” was even better mixing poetic lyrics, great music and pure emotion (in our 2008 Best of and very close to the top). A new record just went out a few weeks ago (“la taille de mon âme” – the size of my soul) and will be for sure in our Best of 2011 list to come.

He was playing this week for two nights in the “Collège des Bernardins” which is an old abbey situated in the Latin Quarter in Paris, heart of the city. The stage was actually under the roof in a marvelous hall and you may catch the rose window in the picture above-right. Why so? Well, for a kind of theme called Sacred Monsters dedicated to a few famous artists whose faith is not a secret. Daniel Darc found faith in Protestantism to get away from his dark demons but one can not help wondering if what gets him may not be the beauty of psalms he regularly reads during his performance rather than actual faith. But who are we to know?

However, amazing acoustic show with Daniel singing and playing harmonica plus his two great musicians on keyboards/piano and viola/guitar. The guy is obviously still out there and his body holds all this difficult years but what a feeling of emotion and greatness during a whole show… Not sure I already experienced such a thing live before. Go and see Daniel Darc if he plays near where you live and get back to your inner feelings for an hour and a half.

Low, Gaité Lyrique, Paris, 2nd December 2011 : when simplicity equals greatness…

Once more, an artist or band seen twice within the same year after Bill Callahan next week. But a bit different this time as I had seen Low in spring as opening act of Mercury Rev and really wanted to see them back for a longer show as I had been very much impressed the first time. So back to the black cube of the Gaité Lyrique! No great change as one can imagine vs. May show but still this fascinating minimalism surrounding the band : Alan Sparhawk is the driving force here singing majority of the tracks and being in charge of giving these beautiful guitar sounds to our ears, his wife Mimi Parker is clearly the strength of the band as she is the one setting the rhythm on drums (clearly inspired by Moe Tucker from the Velvet Underground…) whereas current bass player Steve Garrington follows nicely and with a great sense of felling the tempo given by the lead couple.

I really recommend this band and their music to anyone looking for calm, beauty, authenticity with a sense of great rock’n’roll at the same time. Their latest LP “C’mon” is one of their best and will surely be amongst our best of the year list. Alan does not talk a lot but is quite funny when he does as he was looking to help us with ideas solving any potential problems we may have and thanked us for our love…and money (“helping next generation”)!

Bill Callahan, Gaité Lyrique, Paris, 26th November 2011

This was Bill Callahan’s last show of the tour in his current band-of-three frame (with the great Mike Kensey on guitar and Neil Morgan on drums) and frankly why bother posting another review only six months after I last saw him in Paris? Well, just because this venue I did not know put him in a particular good mood, because the show went on for almost two hours and because he eventually played “River Guard” as a last song of the show, rewarding my friend Florian for many years of hopes and dedication!

Nothing much more to say except thank you Bill for visiting us so often.

Rain Dogs Revisited, Paris, Salle Pleyel, 22nd November 2011 : St. Vincent stole the show!

The great Tom Waits has just published a fine new LP (“Bad As Me”) and coincidently Rain Dogs Revisited were playing at around the same time in Paris. A bit like The Velvet Revisited, the idea was to play a tribute to one of Tom Waits’ best LP’s with artists giving their interpretations of these great and moving songs. “Rain Dogs” has always been one key LP for your host as I remember buying jointly the Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Psychocandy” nad Tom Waits’ “Rain Dogs” the same day after NME elected both of them LP’s of the year 1985.

So, how these artists measured themselves against such beautiful songs? Well, there were highs and lows…. :

– very poor : The Tiger Lillies. I had never heard about this band but avoid them at all costs. Completely out of scope while singing and playing Tom Waits’ songs as if there were circus and vaudeville’s ones whereas these are on the opposite songs that come from the heart and soul. The singer was particularly annoying, pulling faces and singing in a high-pitched voice.

– neutral : Jane Birkin. Nothing to say about her. She sang a couple of songs in a professional way but with no feelings whatsoever. And why singing “Alice” which has nothing to do with “Rain Dogs” or the rain theme?

– quite good : Camille O’Sullivan and Stef Kamil Carlens (singer of Zita Swoon). Both singers did their best and showed enthusiasm and a real love of Tom Waits but did not do the extra-mile.

– interesting : Erika Stucky. I had never heard about her but she gave a very personal and scary version of Tom Wait’s songs, mixing languages and atmosphere. Excellent interaction with the audience as well. The thing is I guess three songs were great but I would have been bored about an entire set.

– excellent : Arthur H. The only French artist of the set (which allowed the French audience to understand Tom Waits’ lyrics for once, as he joked) had been named at the start of his career a Tom Waits xerox, which was not far from the truth. However, record by record, he established a true personality and is probably today on the most interesting French artists. One could feel and see that Arthur was not faking on stage and had the real inside feeling, groove and love for these songs. Superb version of “Clap Hands” in particular.

– excellent : the band! Bunch of great musicians under the lead of David Coulter. Special mention to two extraordinary musicians : Terry Edwards (of Tindersticks fame) who in top of being a famous skilled saxophone player is also an excellent guitar player and of course the great Steve Nieve on keyboards (member of Elvis Costello & The Attractions).

– top of the world : St Vincent. Annie Clark as she is known by her family really stole the show. This young and nice-looking lady is a tremendous artist who mixes emotion with a kind of natural weirdness. I had seen her in the past as opening act for Sufjan Stevens and I must say she has gained an impressive maturity throughout the years. I strongly recommend to anyone to listen to the three LP’s she did until now as they are all amazing. The way she interpreted “Downtown Train”, “Tango Till They’re Sore ” and “Big Black Mariah” left me speechless.

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All in all a nice evening and a very good idea which should be continued to celebrate great albums from the past.

And go and see St. Vincent live if you can. Here is her version of Big Black Mariah when Rain Dogs Revisited were on stage in the UK in July 2011 :

Okkervil River, Café de la Danse, Paris, 16th November 2011

It has been a while since I was eager to have a chance to see Will Sheff and his band live and I finally succeeded in seeing them. Okkervil River, like their twin band Shearwater have been a quite recent discovery for me in the sense that I did not follow them since day one and discovered them after they did a few LP’s.

Okkervil River is from Austin, Tx (once more – I guess I would do a special feature on Austin bands in a near future…) and are part of this “grower” bands which taste go inside you little by little and with time, like great wine if I may have this easy metaphor… Their forte is of course their leader who at first sight is not the most charismatic frontperson ever but reveals himself indeed when on stage with a fantastic presence. His voice is wonderful as well and is for me the best instrument of the band, helping them all to give their best.

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I was therefore expecting a very good show but found much better as I did not expect such energetic behaviour from Will and his band on stage. Their latest LP “I Am Very Far” is excellent and should not be far from our 2011 Top 15. Please click to read excellent review on Robert’s blog. The following video I took should give you a more precise idea about what I am writing about.

Last minute! Okkervil River was playing the following week in the UK and in Bristol in particular on the 21st. Go to Robert’s blog to get the show review.

Austin City Limits Festival 16th to 18th September 2011 : My Top 10 shows

A dream come true for your host. Austin City Limits is a festival that had been created ten years go in 2001 and whose line-up has been one of the best for a few years. It takes place every year at the end of the summer (well, winter lasts for one month in South Texas…) in Zilker Park very near downtown and has many qualities on top of its line-up : cooler audience in the world, between 30 and 35 degrees C° every day, the pleasure in attending shows bare-feet in the grass, a Waterloo Records temporary store, ecology-friendly (I did not see one soda bottle or a beer glass on the ground for three days…) and even ladies speaking the language of signs in front of the stage during a few shows for those who needed it. I saw 24 shows during this three-day marathon and you will find below my subjective Top 10. But here are first a few pictures of the festival to get in the mood, including all shows I saw but not in my Top 10 (although a few of them were great such as The Antlers, Charles Bradley, Gomez or Phosphorescent for instance). Oh, and Christian Bale was there too…

ACL 2011 - Entrance Day

#10 – Joseph Arthur : a long time since I did not see Joseph Arthur live. He had been “discovered” by Peter Gabriel at the end of the 90’s but always managed his career the way he wanted, making it a bit difficult to follow among his many projects. He played ACL on the way he does it best, i.e. alone with his acoustic guitar and a foot-sampler to get rhythm and loops and allowing the audience to hear his beautiful texts and melodies. And as he is a very talented painter too, he did a few of them while singing. Classy guy…

#9 – The Walkmen : Americana meeting Joy Division is the way I described this band to my mate before the show and I must say this is a quite good shortcut. The guys woke up at 4 a.m. as they were coming directly from another long distance US State whose name I forgot but still succeeded in opening greatly the Saturday session on the AMD stage. Excellent noirish but also entertaining band ; I was particularly impressed by the way their singer Hamilton Leithauser kept his suit during the show when temperature was around 40°C…

#8 – Twin Shadow : this band is the project of  George Lewis, Jr. (American guy born in Dominican Republic) and his music is a bit difficult to describe. Let’s just say he is friends with the band Grizzly Bear and that his music is a mix of 80’s British synth-influenced pop with a sonic and groovy edge. Anyway, the concert was really excellent and I strongly recommend his debut LP “Forget”to anyone. Please click on this link to see a nice HD movie of Twin Shadow playing in the studio.

#7 – Wild Beasts : coming from the U.K. and in continuous improvement since their first LP, Wild Beasts can be considered as sorts of cousins of the legendary band The Smiths such delicate and intelligent their music is. Add to this a groovy rhythmic section and two fantastic singers for the price of one with by Hayden Thorpe and Ben Little and you have one of the great bands of our times. That was our first opening show on Friday 1 p.m. and what a great band to start with!

#6 – TV On The Radio: ok, another TV On The Radio show for me and I could have chosen another band for this Top 10…but no. As great as always and even more than last time for me probably due to more weeks to get familiar with their last LP. A great audience atmosphere as well and realizing in the middle of the show the pleasure in seeing them in Austin…I had to leave before the end to get a decent view for Stevie’s show but no hard feelings guys…

#5 – Kurt Vile And The Violators : Kurt Vile is the new guy on whom we should bet in the years to come. 2011 has been a very prolific year with his new LP “Smoke Ring For My Halo” and him being more than a guest on albums from Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) and J. Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.). To describe his music in short, I would say this is not dissimilar from the style heard on acoustic songs from Nirvana’s Unplugged. Great melodies and crafted work but with a tension that can explode at every second. One of the best shows of the festival on the very nice Austin Ventures stage. And fine Orangina tee-shirt, Kurt!

#4 – Stevie Wonder : What a pride and joy to see Stevie Wonder perform with such a punch. You could feel in the audience that everyone was overwhelmed to see in form the great soul artist. He had lost weight vs. last time I saw him in Paris and as schedule was quite tight he did not do his usual 10-minute speech about love and all (only 5-minute ones…). Anyway, great covers from Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson (“The way you make me feel“) plus a huge part of his classics and in particular songs from his two master LP’s “Innervisions” and “Songs In The Key of Life” that everyone should own by law. Keep playing in such a way please great man…

#3 – Kanye West : Our 2010 record of the year artist was playing his last show in this formula. And what an ambitious show that was : arrival in a platform in the middle of the crowd (and very close to where we were standing!), around thirty classic dancers, a glorious stage wallpaper, lights everywhere and so on. But of course that would be nothing if the songs were crap which as you know is completely the opposite. Kanye is such a media personality today that this is difficult to judge and even so what would be the consequences for a multi-millionaire businessman? Well, I personally found a guy in love with music, with an amazing voice (something I had not realized before) and so happy to be on stage that everyone could feel as if they were very close to the stage. And always a nice feeling to see one of the greats on the peak of their forms. “Can we get much higher“? This will be tough after such a performance…

#2 – Arcade Fire : 8.30 pm. All stages are now over with bands and artists and last show of this 3-day festival starts on the Bud Light stage. What better and enthusiastic band to close a festival with than Arcade Fire? None today I guess… One of the most joyful shows I have ever attended and I am not sure I can find the words to describe the state of the crowd as well! Have a look at the set list and at the latest Zenith show as well but please go to see Arcade Fire next time you are in a position to do so and you will be rewarded.

#1 – Iron & Wine : Best show of the festival as far as I am concerned although that was the only one entirely under the rain (rain in Texan summer being something that wets and refreshes a bit your body and that is welcomed by local people!). As a reminder, Iron & Wine is the project name for Sam Beam and can be simply described as the most beautiful and subtile music that you will ever hear (no, really…). Sam being from Austin and proud father of five girls, seeing two of them dancing and applauding Dad backstage was a pleasure. For more on Iron & Wine, please have a look at his recent 4AD sessions and his interview/studio live songs on Sound Opinions (show #302).

So here you are, amazing festival full of authentic emotions and friendship ; basically what one is looking for in this 21st century life… ACL, see you probably in 2013!

Primal Scream “Screamadelica” live, La Cigale, Paris, 6th September 2011

I recently proposed to you my beloved blog readers the “Record by Record” series starting with Primal Scream following the 2011 reissue of their 1991 masterpiece “Screamadelica” and have been rewarded by my hard work with the band coming in Paris to play the album!

I will not spend too many words on the show but just wanted to say that this was one of the best I had ever seen. The band was in great shape and I was particularly impressed by how thin and dynamic Bobby Gillespie is and what an amazing guitar player Barrie Cadogan is as well (he is the leader of Little Barrie and played as opening act with his band to warm up). Mani’s bass playing is something to watch as well although he seemed literally in constant need of a deep breathing… Contrary to many bands reforming to play a classic album, let us not forget that Primal Scream never split for one thing and just managed to play a few of these tracks live in the past whereas the audience is now lucky to feel and live the whole album on stage. All songs were great as expected but double thumbs-up for “Higher than the Sun”. For French-reading people, please click to read the review of French magazine “les Inrockuptibles”.

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A fantastic Blue Ray went out recently with the November 2010 London show both on Blue Ray and CD plus the Classic Albums documentary about how the record had been made twenty years ago. Here is an excerpt with the first track of the record and the show “Movin’ On Up” : I was blind, now I can see,…

Festival Rock en Seine 2011, Parc de Saint Cloud, My Day Three, 28th August

Last day of one of our favourite festivals. After two days from one stage to another, thighs and calves are a bit tired but nothing like a nice running to be back on track and fit for the first show of the day!

Sub-Brit pop (part one) I had read lots of interesting articles about The Vaccines and after a first listen the album had sounded quite interesting. Well, I am not saying I will not give it another try but what a boring live band they are. This déjà vu feeling of seeing a competent band playing nicely their verse-chorus-verse song one after another as already heard in may days of festivals in the past was irritating to say the least. What makes young men play such insipid music in the year 2011? Why do these guys not want to play like Joy Division, The Stooges, The Clash, Prefab Sprout, The White Stripes, etc… I don’t know exactly but a kind a music that makes you want to feel alive and not being a pale copy of sub-Oasis. Sorry guys but Radiohead you ain’t.

François and the Atlas Mountains are a French Band from young guys which I had not planned to see but I think I had understood The Vaccines after 25 minutes… I did not stay long but I found their sunny African-rhythm influenced pop quite refreshing and will probably have a few listens to the LP when it goes out soon.

Faris Badwan Part One. Here we are for the first part of the young man on-stage presence, one of my major enthusiasm when I discovered the 2011 program. Cat’s Eyes has been created last year by Faris (The Horrors singer) with a young Canadian opera soprano singer named Rachel Zeffira . They met each other by related friends and soon discovered a shared passion for 60’s girl groups with a Phil Spector influence. Their music is very fresh but bears at the same time a great sense of music history (eg their great cover of Lucifer Sam from Pink Floyd’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn). And one can feel the pleasure they have in being on stage. An excellent part one for Faris!

The La’s on stage at Rock en Seine were probably the least expected concert ever. A brief history here: Lee Mavers did a few promising singles before making one of the albums of the 90’s with their first LP in 1990. What happened next has been quite known from rock fans: Lee Mavers went crazily perfectionist and eager to redo this album with a better sound, bassist left to form boring britpop band Cast, Lee got crazier, 2nd LP never went out and the La’s reformed every five years for embarrassing moment on stage. I was therefore quite surprised to see him sun-tanned, apparently in healthy shape and having the good idea in playing these great songs rough with only another young musician on bass. Critics have been quite harsh about the show but what were people expecting? I considered myself quite happy to see what I saw  and I would even say that it went much better vs. what I was expecting. Anyway, the La’s will never do a second proper LP so buy the only one album existing if you do not have it already.

Sub-Brit pop (part two) . Miles Kane was the former leader of the now deceased Rascals and did the excellent Last Shadow Puppets record with Alex Turner from the Arctic Monkeys in 2008. He went solo this year, has a good band on stage, looks very elegant and has all the usual excellent references from The Kinks to Jacques Dutronc. Just one little detail Miles, your music is quite BO-RING and although legions of British fans were greatly enthusiastic  and gave this show a nice atmosphere, I really waited for the slightest bit of emotion to come and must say I am still waiting…

Faris Badwan Part Two. And when talking about passion and emotion, here are The Horrors! After a weird pyscho-billy Cramps influenced first record, The Horrors went on making two amazing records in 2009 and this year, influenced by Portishead, Can, psychedelic 60’s music but without being passeist, which makes them so great. I already saw them in Rock en Seine 2009 but they really do get better with every new record or show they play and are an amazing band to see on stage. Faris had time to change his shirt and concentrated in singing (funny how he has the same attitude as Joy Ramone when doing so…). And they played of course their two amazing longs songs that I recommend to anyone with fresh ears ( “Sea Within A Sea” and “Moving Further Away”). One of the peaks of the week-end!

I have always quite liked the Deftones on record and found their music quite complex for a Metal Band  and far from the clichés that exist in this genre (well, let’s remember that their leader Chini Moreno is a fan of The Smiths and many other 80’s British post-punk bands…). I was therefore afraid that their subtlety would disappear when on stage but that was not the case at all. Moreno has really a original and fantastic-sounding voice and the band were really in line with was they do on record…with an extra side of head-banging. It made me want to listen again with more attention to their records, which is always a good sign when you see a band live.

Having no interest whatsoever in most boring band ever Archive, my final concert of the festival was Trentemøller. A quite famous Dane DJ, his music is a smart mix of dance-electro stuff with a huge 80’s post-punk influence as well (Cocteau Twins for instance). His show was great to end the festival and I could not stop smiling the whole concert. I highly recommend the last compilation he did for the LateNightTales series.

Great festival as always then and the fourth stage really brings something  and gives extra-choice, which makes the body more exhausted but the mind happier!

My top 5 of the festival: 1. Foo Fighters 2. The Horrors 3. Big Audio Dynamite 4. Death From Above 1979 5. Trentemøller

Next festival: Austin, Tx, USA for Austin City Limits ; see you soon!