My 2012 Autumn Music Festivals 2/2 : Festival les Inrocks, Cigale-Boule Noire-Olympia, Paris, 8th, 9th, 10th and 13th November, 2012

Your host has been a long time attendee of the Festival les Inroks and even  if I did not go necessarily every year, I try to mark up the dates when the program looks interesting. Quite a weird feeling this year as if I was more than happy to find back on stage more “standard” and guitar-oriented bands after the Pitchfork festival, the opposite was true as well, i.e. I found that the festival was lacking a bit in diversity. The best (worst?) examples being once more these sub-bands, mainly coming from the UK, that bring nothing apart for a kind a “savoir-faire” which I find quite cynical. I am talking here about bands such as The Maccabees,  The Vaccines, Electric Guest, Peace for instance.

Please go to the “shows” page for a complete picture of the bands I saw as I will focus here only on a few bands which I really enjoyed.

Spiritualized (4)

  • Spiritualized (8th November – Cigale)

At last! Spiritualized has been for years one of my favourite bands (ranked #77 in my Top 100) but I did not succeed in seeing them live before. The show was quite in line with my expectations, i.e. leader Jason Pierce being not very talkative and concentrated on his music with a great bunch of musicians behind and two beautiful gospel singers. I would even say that seeing Spiritualized live is understanding what this is about : slow start in almost every song with only a few notes that could be played in a church and then the music starts to speed up little by little eventually reaching repetition and pure pleasure.

Michael Kiwanuka (6)

  • Michael Kiwanuka (10th November – Cigale)

Michael Kiwanuka is young 25-year old young UK singer from Ugandan origins and he published his first album this year. His style is clearly influenced by soul/folk artists such as Bill Withers or the recently deceased Terry Callier, which makes him quite a curiosity in the current music scene. Excellent show live and his voice in particular is as good as on the record. I really appreciated as well the fact that there is a kind of understatement and humility in him and his musicians.

Alabama Shakes (7)

  • Alabama Shakes (10th November – Cigale)

Alabama Shakes is another 2012 revelation. Coming from Athens, Alabama and built around the strong personality of their singer Brittany Howard (what a name!), their music is not very far from that of Michael Kiwanuka in the mindset as their sound is clearly retro-soul oriented but in a modern way. In other words, this band is really part of the “now” but has the modesty not to create anything new but adopting great songs from the past. The musicians are really efficient on stage but the real star there is by far Brittany who has a real strong presence on stage ; the Cigale was on fire!

Pulp (4)

  • Pulp (13th November – Olympia)

After a short two-day break, back to the festival les Inrocks to see a band I had not seen live before actually : Pulp! The band was on indefinite hiatus for years and their singer Jarvis Cocker had a solid solo career until they started to play a few shows two years ago and went on playing throughout the world. It had been years since they did not play Paris although Jarvis is familiar with the city as he lives there all year-long.

So how was it? Well, very good show for a very good band if I may say but… Of course, all the Britpop hits were there and the crowd went hectic in particular when great songs such as “Disco 2000” or “Common People” were played but I was personally feeling a kind of inauthentic atmosphere, as in “let’s show the world that this concert is amazing and that I am great being part of the lucky ones”. The fact in having Jarvis speaking bad French between every song completely took out all emotion as fas as I was concerned. Let’s not be negative as the show was overall very good ; the climax being a fantastic version of “This is Hardcore“.

See you next year les Inrocks and enjoy my video of “Babies” :

My 2012 Autumn Music Festivals 1/2 : Pitchfork Music Festival, Grande Halle de la Villette, Paris, 2nd and 3rd November, 2012

Day Two (2nd of November)

By far the weakest day of the Festival, best examples being the soul pastiche singer Jessie Ware, the pseudo Swedish dance sensation Robyn or the quite boring Wild Nothing or Chromatics. The headliners were Animal Collective and I must say it confirmed even more on stage what I thought about this band : I want to like them, I may find the way they do music quite interesting but I do not get it at the end of the day and it leaves me emotionless. Their high-pitched non-voices were particularly annoying live although they had a great stage set (inside a giant mouth).

Main discovery of the day for me was the hip-hop band Ratking. Animated live by two very young MC’s from Brooklyn, their set was quite refreshing, mixing up weird sound à la Wu Tang Clan with a great energy and complementary attitude of the two leading voices.

The best band tonight without any doubt was The Walkmen. I had seen them this summer in Chicago but must admit that they get better and better with every set they do. This band is now for me in a R.E.M. position just before they got worldwide famous : authenticity, great songs, a real team and family spirit, many albums behind them, a growing audience,….everything actually to go from one of the best bands of the indie rock world to be one of the major bands of our times.

Day Three (3rd of November)

After having enjoyed 20 bands out of 20 in the first two days, I dramatically decreased my ratio on the third day to 8/13, being probably too old now to go to bed at 7 am. Anyway, excellent third day, starting with a very good French band I had never of called Isaac Delusion which makes beautiful music, quite close in spirit and sound of that of James Blake.

 Seeing Cloud Nothings at the Pitchfork Festival was a real pleasure as this was a first-time for me and as their 2nd LP “Attack on Memory” published this year is one of the highlights of the year. They were even better on stage creating a sort of punchy and melodic grunge music but with a real knowledge of rock history as seen in a couple of tracks that went from typical American rock (influence Dinosaur Jr.) to the best moments of German music of the 70’s (influence Can). And so happy to see guys playing powerful guitars in the middle of this electro-influenced festival!

The rest of the evening was a bit weird, mixing the great energetic but frankly a bit inaudible on stage (Liars, Death Grips) with the pop oriented sounds of Twin Shadow or Breton for instance.

But the real kings of this last day were the headliners Grizzly Bear. This band is slowly but surely building up a beautiful repertoire of songs influenced equally by challenging and intellectual rock and by harmonies as those done by The Beach Boys. This is the band that is to my mind very similar to Animal Collective (smart guys, huge music knowledge, will to change things in music but in all art forms as well) but they have one major difference : they have songs. Their music world is not one in which you will enter easily but when you found the keys, you will stay in a very welcoming and warm house. I have always liked as well the bands with more than one singer and their set was really showing how much they master the art of multiple-voice singing.

A good way then to finish three excellent (but physically exhausting) days, hoping that a third festival will take place next year. Stay tuned for a soon-to-come post about my second Paris Autumn Festival (les Inrocks, with Pulp!).

My 2012 Autumn Music Festivals 1/2 : Pitchfork Music Festival, Grande Halle de la Villette, Paris, 1st November, 2012

The concept of attending a non-summer festival is always weird as they are often associated with outdoors events, when one can enjoy his beer under the sun… or rain clouds. However, let’s start with our first part with Pitchfork Music Festival held in the beautiful site of La Grande Halle de la Villette.

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Pitchfork is probably today the worldwide best web music site where one can find five very critical and elaborate records reviews every day, news, articles and videos (on Pichfork.tv) and all this for free. They had started to organize a festival in Chicago a few years ago and since 2011 Paris has been honoured to host the European leg of their festival. This year was the second edition and as I was stuck in Paris during a Bank Holiday for working reasons, here I was attending these great three days in the middle of the hippest audience seen in Paris for a concert. Great festival, mixing lots of artists and bands, mainly from the electro world but from soul, rock and hip-hop as well with a different touch and other options compared to your standard festivals : great food, trendy shops, a Rough Trade music store, people from all countries in the audience, etc… The only difficult thing to cope with was to be in a good enough physical shape to attend all the shows, starting everyday at 5 pm until very late…

Day One (1st of November) :

Very electic day to start with and I must say all ten bands/artists were either interesting to watch or great, even if I still have difficulties to stay focused and passionate about seeing guys on stage in front of machines, even if their music is often enjoyable (I guess I am an old-fashioned guitar-loving guy…). I had been particularly impressed by the beautiful voice of the singer of How To Dress Well and the voice and weirdness of James Blake whom I had the pleasure to see in another atmosphere at Austin City Limits around a year ago. Top three shows of the day were the following ones  as far as I am concerned :

Japandroids are a guitar and drums band formed near Vancouver. Their first LP went out in 2011 and it was supposed to be their swan record as they had not succeeded in having a strong follow-up despite good reviews. It looks like their fate was to be different as Pitchfork did an excellent review of this first album and word of mouth started to have a positive impact on the band. Excellent and super-energetic show from Japandroids and I do recommend warmly their new “Celebration Rock” LP for those who like their music with blood, sweat … and humour.

Sébastien Tellier is an old musical acquaintance of your host as I remember having bought very enthusiastically his first LP “L’incroyable vérité” many years ago and having see him on stage opening for Air in Strasbourg @ la Laiterie theatre. The guy is a mix of guilty-pleasure music, kitsch, craziness, very down-to-earth and very funny indeed French jokes but mainly an extraordinary talent, who wrote in particular one of the most beautiful songs ever with “La Ritournelle”. His last LP “My God Is Blue” is based on an invented story around a Blue sect, which gives you an idea about the character… Anyway, very fascinating show, with him onstage playing a V-neck guitar and beautiful piano with the help of his two great musicians (drums and synths).

Last but not least, the first day finished with M83 as headliner, the band led by Anthony Gonzalez, from Antibes, France! I had never been a real fan of his cinematic electro music in the past although I found it very nice to hear. Everything changes with his last LP “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” which is a heavy ambitious (too much sometimes?) 22-track piece of work and holds fantastic hymns, in a Daft-Punk-meets-Cocteau-Twins style. I did not stay until the end as I had something called office work the following day but that was indeed the best band to finish this first marathon of 10 bands…

For amazing photos of Day One, please click to go to the Pitchfork site.

Keep on being posted for Day Two review to come soon!

Radiohead, Paris Bercy, 12th October 2012

Radiohead is the band or artist I have seen the most in my humble music-lover life as this Bercy show was my 7th Radiohead concert, starting in 1996 at La Cigale, Paris when they were touring their LP “The Bends”. The reason is probably due to the fact they do not tour as much as they used to, meaning I really try to catch them live when possible as their sets are always a rewarding experience.

What makes Radiohead so good on records but live as well ? :

– first and without a shadow of a doubt the freshness of their music and the choices they did in the past in not being another “expected” band such as, say, your Coldplay or Muse. Every record has been a radical change from the previous one and although it might appear not natural for a few followers and critics and even a gimmick per se, it really put the band aside from many of their contemporaries. Radiohead’s music is the pure opposite of boredom and their ambition is a thing to cherish ;

– secondly, the members on the band have all great personalities and craftmanship. Of course, Thom Yorke is somehow the lead figure of the band but Radiohead is one of the few bands whose members’ names I can all remember. And Jonny Greenwood is a fucking amazing musician on stage…

– their shows are always interesting visually speaking and bring a great mix of music and lights.

So, how was Bercy 2012? Well, excellent thank you very much : a great setlist (including songs from all LP’s from “The Bends” onwards), an amazing contribution from Clive Deamer the second stage drummer, a tremendous light show based on demultiplying screens and above all a sense that the guys were really happy to be here and play, sharing their enthusiasm with a few French words! So I guess see you soon for my 8th time…

Du bon New Order, camarade ! New Order, Fête de l’Humanité, La Courneuve, 14th September 2012

If I still had the slightest chance to receive any family inheritance, it has then completely disappeared since last Friday night… Here I was, spending my 24 EUR (for the three days of festival!) to see one of my favourite bands ever which I had not seen live for 25 years at the Fête de l’Humanité, near the Bourget airport in the suburbs of Paris. For those of you not familiar with the subtleties of the French media, l’Humanité used to be the propaganda newspaper of the French Communist Party when such a thing existed. It is now I think the left-front daily newspapers and they are organizing as they do year on year at back-to-school period 3 days of meetings, music…and drinking. I must say that I had not seen so many drunk people at a rock show for a long time but the mood of the event was really nice and people really friendly and communicating a lot one with another.

But the only reason I was there was New Order of course (enjoy the amusing part of their name, which had been influenced by the worts part of the 20th century history in such a place….). Probably the only band ever whose members were part of two history-making bands (Joy Division and New Order), they have reformed last year for a few shows and go on playing live here and there. So, of course, the years passed and they are not physically fit as they used to be (who is anyway?), of course Bernard Sumner’s voice is still not the strongest asset of the band, of course they do not talk anymore to bass player formidable Peter Hook who is apart now, etc… But still, that was a great show in front of an enthusiastic mixed crowd where the band played all these fantastic rock/dance songs which are really their signature and could make them being identified out of millions of bands. After a nice slow-growing start, the show took off thanks to a sublime version of “True Faith” before such classics as “The Perfect Kiss“, “Blue Monday“, “Ceremony“, “Temptation” etc… Amazing and very moving encore as well when they played “Love Will Tear Us Apart“, the Joy Division song which is one of the anthem of our times…

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My Jack White World Tour : Olympia, Paris (2nd July 2012) and Lollapalooza, Chicago (5th August 2012)

Another personal achievement for your host after having attended Austin City Limits last year : Lollapalooza Festival! Created by Perry Farrell (Jane’s Addiction leader) and on a itinerant basis for a few years, Lollapalooza has been held for a few years in Chicago, more precisely in Grant Park, which is the place to be in the summer if you want a bit of wind and freshness near the lake.

I did not succeed in being in Chicago early enough to catch the first two days although the line-up was quite amazing with in particular bands I would have loved very much to see : The Afghan Whigs, M83, Black Sabbath, Alabama Shakes, tUnE-yArDs, Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party or the Red Hot Chili Peppers! And when you happen to attend the festival, as was the case on Sunday, you have to decide between the seven (!) stages and have to miss great bands such as Justice…

However, excellent shows on Sunday with Poliça, The Walkmen, Sigur Ros, The Gaslight Anthem, Toro Y Moi which I all managed to see partly or in their entirety. A specific reward to the Walkmen whom I saw once more in the middle of the American very hot summer afternoon but who kept on being very elegant on stage and delivering their great set as usual.

At The Drive-In, the punk-harcore-melodic band who split a few years ago giving birth to two good bands (The Mars Volta and Sparta) have been reforming for the summer, playing in a few European and US festivals. I had never been a huge fan of their music although I had read they were amazing live … and ouch! they were indeed. Their singer Cedric Bixler is an incredible powerful, energetic and funny showman and they drove the audience crazy, especially los latinos hermanos!

And then, here came the man himself : Jack White. I can not find the words to describe how I like the guy, either for the music he did before (The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather) or he does now (his first solo LP is for sure one of the albums of the year) or for what he represents in these fake times. This man is hard-working and dedicated to authenticity in all his actions ; this is a real pleasure to see that he takes advantage of his fame to bring the kids to real good music and the love of it (he is a real vinyl fetichist!). I would recommend to listen to his recent interview on Sound Opinions (show #349) and the DVD done a few years ago with The Edge and Jimmy Page where the three of them talked with passion about their love of music (It Might Get Loud).

Still original, Jack White currently tours with two bands : one made out of men (The Buzzards) and the other one of women (The Peacocks) and he choses every night depending on the mood. The Paris show was great and he had decided to play with the boys that night. But the Lollapalooza show was on another dimension as there was a real sense of celebration. He started with the boys but changed mid-show during an acoustic song to bring us the ladies for the second half. Both bands were great and to my mind if the boys were more soulful, the girls brought more punk energy and enthusiasm.

Please click on the links to get the set lists which mixed all Jack White’s musical periods : Paris ShowChicago Show And to finish here is a video I took of the final song of the show which you may happen to have heard before…

Old Guys rule : four fantastic shows from Bob Mould, Paul Weller, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen (Brussels and Paris, June-July 2012)

Probably a coincidence but four of my favourite artists of all times were in the neighborhood recently. The four of them not as young as they used to be but still 200% relevant by their attitudes, energy, ethics…and of course by the greatness of their music. So let’s start with good old Bob.

1. Who : Bob Mould ; Age : 51 ; Where : Ancienne Belgique (Brussels) ; When : 3rd of June 2012 ; Setlist available : Yes

One of my musical regrets in life is not having seen on stage the seminal US band Hüsker Dü, melodic punk trio from the 80’s out of which Bob Mould was singer, guitar player and co-leader with drummer Grant Hart. The influence of this band is not something well-known by the general public but without Hüsker Dü, there would not have been any Pixies or Nirvana, simple as that. After a couple of amazing solo albums, Bob formed a new band named Sugar in the 90’s and they enjoyed a relatively high success in the UK, where they were signed on the excellent Creation label, home of Primal Scream, Ride, Teenage Fanclub or Oasis among many other bands. He went on making other good records after Sugar disbanded even if on a less frequent basis.

Tonight, the show was based on Sugar 1st LP “Copper Blue” which was rated as album of the year by New Musical Express in 1992. Sugar first months were as good as Hüsker Dü best years by the intensity of the music and the quality of the songs, which made it an album available to all from the pure hardcore fan to the more melodic-oriented person. He revisited the full album track by track in its original sequence sequence with two great musicians : Jon Wurster on drums and Jason Narducy on bass … and the least one could say is that this show was LOUD! All “Copper Blue” songs are hits as far as I am concerned and that first part of the show was something I never thought being lucky enough to see live. After revisiting the past, the band played new songs from future to come LP and of course finished with a few Hüsker Dü ones, including the famous “Celebrated Summer”. Here is for your pleasure a video I took of the third track on the LP called “Changes” :

I would recommend Bob Mould’s recent biography “See a little light” where he openly talks about all his formed addictions, failed love or missed friendships, his constant fight against his body weight and more interesting how he succeeded in assuming his homosexuality in a complicated environment. Fascinating book from a great man. All three Sugar albums have just been reissued as well on 2-CD formats and are highly recommended.

2. Who : Paul Weller ; Age : 54 ; Where : Bataclan (Paris) ; When : 13th of June 2012 ; Setlist available : Yes

I have been lucky to see Paul Weller on stage a few times but it seems he now has a recurrent commitment with Le Bataclan when he comes in Paris as this is the third time in a row that I have been enjoying him and his band playing in this venue. For those totally unfamiliar with Paul Weller, you should be aware that he is one of the most famous artists in the U.K. where thousands of people have been celebrating him play in huge outdoor places, such as Hyde Park for instance.

One can describe Paul Weller’s life as a one celebrating music in all his forms from his start as leader of mod-punk band the Jam in the 70’s, then as the leading force in jazz-soul-dance ensemble The Style Council in the 80’s and finally embracing an amazing career since the 90’s mixing influence as diverse as Traffic or Nick Drake. He has been a respected figure amongst generations of musicians, the most famous fan probably Noel Gallagher of Oasis. His first solo albums (“Paul Weller” in 1992 or “Wild Wood” in 1993 for instance) represent exactly the kind of music I would like people to hear when you receive the infamous question “what music do you like?” and that you are dumb-faced as you can not decide to choose amidst thousands of records or artists.

And the more Paul Weller gets older, the more adventurous his records are, which is remarkable for an artist who could have decided to go on doing what he knows best. His new LP “Sonik Kicks” is particularly fresh and innovative mixing 70’s German rock and typical British pop. The band (with the very talented Steve Cradock from Ocean Colour Scene on guitar) arrived on stage and started by playing this new LP in its entirety, which is always tricky as the audience is mechanically less familiar with this new material. Excellent first part anyway with Paul wearing smart italian shoes and a nice suit. The band went back for an emotional 4-track acoustic session before playing more well-known songs from his back catalogue including two The Jam songs (“In the City”, their first single!).

Probably the best show I have seen from this amazing and passionate artist for whom music is a real raison d’être. Here is the beautiful “You Do Something To Me” from the acoustic session.

3. Who : Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers ; Age : 61 ; Where : Grand Rex (Paris) ; When : 27th of June 2012 ; Setlist available : Yes

It had been twenty years that Tom Petty had played live in Paris until this Grand Rex show and one can not help but asking why such a long time… Maybe it comes from the fact that Tom Petty is quite a reluctant pop star in these glamour ages where authenticity is not really recognized at its own value. Anyway he was back and the crowd was totally forbidding him all this long period of time without a show (see article about the show for French-speaking readers).

After having had the pleasure in seeing once more this year the great Jonathan Wilson for an excellent set (his Facebook page is highly recommended as he took many pictures of this tour), the stage was ready for the main act. Tom Petty is the kind of artist everybody knows when in the music business but if you were to ask who Tom Petty is to the common man, you would have nothing but an embarrassed silence. This is probably no true in the US where he has been one of the key artists for decades but I am sure that even there his songs are more famous than who he is. And songs he had more than enough in this set! I was afraid that he would concentrate on his latest nice LP’s but the set was really well-balanced between covers (Fleetwood Mac, Chuck Berry), side-projects (The Traveling Wilburys, the band Tom formed in the late 80’s with Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lyne and George Harrison), pure driving hits (“Free Fallin'”, “I Won’t Back Down”, “Learning To Fly”) and very old songs (“American Girl”).

Like Elvis Costello with the Attractions/Imposters, Tom Petty has never been better than when the Heartbreakers are his backing band. These guys literally live and feel rock’n’roll but in a very subtle way. Mike Campbell in particular is such an underestimated guitar player that I would really recommend anyone to (re)listen to a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with a special attention to the musicianship of it rather than the songs.

Here is one of the hits for your pleasure : hear it and hum it back when driving your car!

4. Who : Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band ; Age : 62 ; Where : Bercy (Paris) ; When : 5th of July 2012 ; Setlist available : Yes (note : no pictures or videos taken by your host, Bercy being a bit too large for my camera… These photos come from this site)

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Well, last but not least as they say… I had seen The Boss live for a few times but I must admit that this was by far the best show…and the longest one ever for me with 3h38 of pure pleasure (my former longest concert was The Cure at this same place in 2008 for 3h30). I am personally not a huge fan of long shows and much prefer an intense concert of 1h15 rather than the full one with the compulsory three encores. But Bruce is not a common man for sure as was not as well the French-English-American fellow on my side who enjoyed every minute of it as if it was his last day on Earth.

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Bruce Springsteen was here first to celebrate his new very good LP “Wrecking Ball” which he is currently touring throughout the world. But he had probably as well in mind the hidden mission of celebrating his old pal Clarence Clemons who passed away last year. He did it in a very dignified way, preventing any pathos, which is not a surprise coming from the man. What else can we say apart from the fact that the show was apparently even better than the previous evening in Bercy, with an amazing set list taking tracks from all decades with a joy and musicianship that one can not fail to love without the slightest sight of cynicism. I personally have more and more doubts about these huge shows and only go there where the artist is an extraordinary person/band (eg Kanye West recently or Radiohead soon in October) but these issues do not exist with Bruce as you really feel he plays for you and only you whatever the distance you are from the stage.

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The E-Street did the job as well, although I found Steven Van Zandt a bit shy. The red-headed first lady Patti Scialfa was there (and their daughter Jessica as well who went on stage to dance with her father during “Dancing in the Dark”) but the real stars tonight for me were Jake Clemons (nephew of the late Clarence) and Max Weinberg whose drumming technique has never been so powerful and subtle at the same time. Anyway, this band would not be what they are without the great man himself and tonight Bruce Springsteen was funny, full of energy, giving emotion, dancing and playing like a 20-year old man,…and I do not have any other words to qualify how this man is, except that he has qualities to which we all should aspire to in our daily life.

For more on this show (article, pictures and videos), please click on this nice link.

Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Paris Olympia, 29th May 2012

My Third Elvis Costello show ever and the third one at the Olympia in Paris after having enjoyed the great man onstage in 1986 and 1994.

Born Declan McManus, now aged 57, Elvis Costello has been one the most talented and diverse artists we have had since the end of the 70’s. I will not say I do not appreciate what he does in fields such a jazz, country or even classical music, but one has to admit that he is never as good as when he plays his typical punchy rock style as he did in his first records (or the ones he sometimes does in this style once in a while).

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Elvis Costello had been a man of many names as well and tonight he was our host, Napoleon Dynamite with his Imposters band, built out from two-thirds of the formerly Attractions (Steve Nieve on keyboards and Pete Thomas on drums) and of Davey Faragher on bass. And as a welcoming host, he had a spinning wheel on one side (indicating famous songs’ names or words such as “time” – he told us that if the wheel was to stop there, they would play all the songs ever written with the word “time” in it!) and a go-go dancing booth on the other one. The idea is simple but very pleasant : he chooses people in the audience, they have a nice little chat on stage, spin the wheel and enjoy the stage-bar or the dancing booth while the band plays. People from over the world were there but the most recognized fan was no-one else than Antoine de Caunes (of Chorus, Canal + and Rapido fame) dancing like hell on stage when the band was playing “I don’t want to go to Chelsea”.

So the “how” was great but what about the “it”? Well, I must say that Elvis was in great shape, playing with great enthusiasm an almost 3-hour set, ending with my favourite of his songs : “I Want You” from “Blood and Chocolate”. See you next time a bit earlier Declan! Please click on for full setlist.

The Afghan Whigs, I’ll be your mirror Festival, Alexandra Palace, London, 27th May 2012

“I’ll be your mirror” Festival was part of the great “All Tomorrow’s Parties” events which take place in the UK and in the US a few times a year. The idea is to request to one artist/band to be the curator of the festival and make a list of the bands he would like to invite during these three days. The mood is always very relaxed and the events are held in human-sized and friendly places where fans can have a chat with the musicians or other artists as there aren’t only shows but also movie or other arts events. This spring UK event was curated by the excellent band Mogwai.

It had been ages for me since I had seen a band performing live in the UK and the reformation of one of my favorite bands ever and the fact that they were not playing in France gave me a good reason to cross the Channel. The event was held at Alexandra Palace which is an old and beautiful building located in the middle of a nice park and one has to mention as well that the weather was great : only blues skies and temperature around 27/28 °! Two stages : the West Hall (dark, loud, a bit like the Grande Halle de La Vilette in Paris) and the Panorama Room (with daylight, relaxed and with the audience seated on a carpet floor!).

I only attended Sunday session and arrived mid-afternoon to catch latest track from Thee Oh Sees. All concerts I saw later were all nice to watch either for their nice melodies (Canadian folk band Siskiyou, husband and wife synth band Tennis, late-90’s influenced UK band Yuck) or for their pure punk/rock energy (Archers Of Loaf, The Make-Up).

My excellent surprise came from a band I did not know very well called Sleepy Sun. Five guys on stage, they play a kind of melodic psychedelic stoner rock with great guitar solos. The kind of music to listen when in your car and that makes you imagine you are driving in the desert in the US whereas you are on your way to your local hard-discounter to buy water and milk! Excellent band to catch on stage if you can.

But the real thrill was for The Afghan Whigs. Held by leader Mark Dulli and formed in the late 80’s in Cincinnati , theirs was a never-heard before mix of grunge guitars and melodies with a big Tamla Motown soul influence. The best example is that they were signed on the great Sub Pop label (home of the first Nirvana and Mudhoney records) while recording “My World Is Empty Without You” by The Supremes. Their masterpiece is “Gentlemen” (1993), a record I have been listening to literally hundreds of times and which is characterized by the power of songs, guitars, Greg’s voice and the subtlety of the words describing man-woman relationship. They split in 2001 and since then Greg Dulli has made excellent records with the Twilight Singers or with Mark Lanegan for instance.

Real emotion here then and the crowd was made out of connoisseurs as one can hear from the cheers and the fists held high during the band most famous songs. That was personally one of my most emotional show as I never had thought in seeing them live (I had missed them in their glory days) and one of my best I must say. Arriving very elegantly on stage in their black shirts and playing as if it was the last day on Earth, the show was a fantastic one, covering all periods of their career.

Inclusion of wind instruments in a few songs brought a sensitive side, Greg Dulli’s voice was on top and they even made a medley with the last track from “Gentlemen” and the second part of “Purple Rain” by Prince. For our American reader-friends, go and see them live this summer if you can, as they will play in all big festivals, such as Lollapalooza in Chicago or Austin City Limits in Austin.

The Lemonheads play “It’s a shame about Ray”, Paris, La Maroquinerie, 26th April 2012

Back to La Maroquinerie twice in a row after years of absence and with a rejuvenated pleasure as this might be my favourite hall ever. And this time to see on of my favourite bands which I had seen in that same place in 2006. The Lemonheads are now more than ever the project of Evan Dando who is singer, songwriter, guitarist…and the one setting the mood.

 Tonight, the show was based on their most famous (and probably best) LP from 1992 “It’s a shame about Ray“. Published in 1992 in the middle of the grunge era, this album bore the kind of abandon that characterized the US-western bands of the early 90’s but with on top a sense of melody and concision much more related to the bands of the East Coast (they were originally formed in Boston). I have personally always been under the charm of these simple and short melodies played with a laid-back intensity in a sort of Neil Young meets the Ramones sound (well, sort of…).

As often in bands with strong-personality leaders (hello Echo & The Bunnymen), the show has been a very emotional but weird one with almost no contact from Evan with the audience apart from a few mumbled thank-you’s and irrelevant concerns about the sound. Evan started to play suddenly on an acoustic solo formula before the whole band (a trio) arrived to play the above-mentioned album in its entirety. A few more acoustic and electric tracks..and that was it after 75 minutes. Your host has always been a fan of great and short intense sets but the feeling here was a bit weird to say the least.

Whatever, when the band played, they were great and though a bit older and with more wrinkles on his angel face than in the past, Evan is still a fascinating persona and sings beautifully. Enjoy this video I took of the title track of this LP and one of the greatest too. And go and buy “It’s a shame about Ray” if you do not own it yet!