Archive for the ‘1990s’ Category

Zazie and her Band absolutely at the top of their game, Forest National Arena, Brussels, Belgium, Friday 6th December 2013

Zazie and her Band absolutely at the top of their game, Forest National Arena, Brussels, Belgium, Friday 6th December 2013

It has finally happened – the extra special performance that I have been longing for from one of my favourite French artists – Zazie has arrived. Zazie, with an eye watering real name of Isabelle Marie Anne de Truchis de Varennes served up not only one of the most intense musical experiences I have ever personally experienced but did it without overly obtrusive visual effects so that your eyes and ears were focussed firmly on the singer and her band.
Zazie first came to my attention in 1996/97 while I was living in France studying for my degree. The buses in which I used to travel around the university town of Besancon, constantly had on the radio, playing a mix of French and English pop music that was current at that time. Tunes that were frequently played included several singles from Zazie’s first commercially successful 2nd album Zen, such as “Larsen”, “Un point, c’est toi” and “Homme, Sweet, Homme”. These tunes, that juxtapose sweet tense harmonies with Zazie’s emotional almost folk-like voice, imbedded themselves on my psyche and took root.
Then in 2004, she released the album “Rodeo” which I consider to this day to be her masterwork and one of the best French language pop albums of all time. The next year in 2005 I decided to go and see her live but unfortunately the experiences were mixed partly due to the venues (in Bordeaux we could only see part of the stage) and technical difficulties (in Lille, although the set was visually iconic with Zazie arriving suspended from the ceiling on 4 straps, the sound system and occasionally the singer’s voice sounded crackly.
The year 2008 saw Zazie break new ground and come to London, playing the venerable Shepherd’s Bush Empire on my wife’s birthday weekend. New material was aired from the Album “Totem” to an overwhelmingly French crowd made up largely of expats, young French workers and students. In my favourite London venue, it should have been the perfect show. It was a good show. We had great seats in the middle of the Level 1 balcony. Zazie made some valiant attempts to speak English and there was a vibrant atmosphere particularly towards when the crowd got up and sang classics like “Rue de la Paix”. Like I said it was a good show but not quite perfect. This time it was the crowd themselves or at least the ones around me that took the shine off. I heard too many murmurings, petty criticisms and unworthy attempts at deconstruction. My frustration was palpable. I did not know if I would ever get another chance to see this great singer at her best.
Her 2010 Za7ie: l’Intégrale came and went and while interesting, at 49 tracks over 7 EPs, demanded some work and patience from the listener. Admittedly, I didn’t go to the 2011 tour in France.
Now fast forward to 2013 and the release of latest album “Cyclo”, an album with an altogether darker and grandiose feel. This album is almost as good as “Rodeo”; I knew had to go to a live show again and being the most convenient date, booked for Brussels.
All I can say is perfect, perfect, perfect.
For this show, the venue was acoustically completely right from opening number “Ou allons nous?” (where are we going) to the end.

Sometimes Zazie played a brilliant melancholy with her voice on such songs as “Les Contraires” (The Opposites) , a song which as many, throws the spotlight on the emotional differences in relationships between men and women.
At other times, delving back into her extensive back catalogue, you could feel the substantial drama put into songs like “Ca fait mal et ca fait rien” (It hurts and doesn’t matter) that explore warring relationship within a couple.
Zazie also appears as a keen observer of modern tendencies and trends. The song “Tout” with its up-tempo techno beats and club-like synth rhythms was delivered as a critique to the fast paced modern life and impatient consumer society that now extends into our private lives.
Some classics such as the 1995 release “Larsen” were heartfelt and played in full but others like “Un point , c’est toi , and “Je suis un homme” were incorporated into an amusing Brazil medley style where the Zazie’s band left their instrument to come the front of the stage and play samba drums. At one point, Zazie and the band donned pretend bishops mitre’s and sat on the edge of the stage to acknowledge St. Nicolas Day. After Zazie then went off into the audience to try and start a story going with occasionally bemused individuals in the crowd, with mixed but hilarious results.
Within the long set consisting of about 24 songs there was a liberally sprinkling from latest album “Cyclo” . “Je sais Pas” , another song that with its slow start long build-up into a crescendo projected a feeling of foreboding of a relationship coming to an end. But the title track was a masterpiece both in vocal and instrumental delivery that held me spellbound. The synth riffs were haunting and reminiscent in many ways of the dark atmosphere found in Depeche Mode songs.
The concert got into full electro dance phase with Electro-libre and an slightly more up-tempo and squeakier version of Adam et Yves than usual.
The end of the main set saw 3 live classics; first ,a note perfect version of the truly beautiful “La Dolce Vite” whose synth melody reverberated perfectly through the vast space of the circular arena like a wave; then the proper version of “Je suis un Homme”, a critique of the nature of man in society and history. Zazie exhorted the crowd to sing the chorus “Je tourne en ronde “ ( I go around in circles) to which duly obliged, same thing for next song “Rodeo” – another live classic . The crowd were singing “C’est la vie pas le paradis” long before Zazie started singing the song. All three of these songs were executed with perfect precision.
The first encore also contained crowd pleasers including the very danceable and very apt 20 ans (20 years old), considering most of the crowd were probably in their 30s and 40s, the popular singalong “Rue de la Paix” and the smooth melodic vocal harmonies of “Ca”.
The second encore and last song “J’envoie valser”was personally very special to me and my wife who was also at the concert with there with me as it was the music of our first dance at our wedding; very emotional and a perfect end to a show that was without any shadow of doubt the concert of the year 2013.

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Killing Joke, were absolutely at the top of their game for their 34th/35th anniversary concert at The Forum, Kentish Town, March 16th 2013.

It was with some dedication that I made it to the gig tonight from my part of the Capital in East London to this oft difficultly accessible enclave of North London. After having to plan my route around part of the tube stopped for engineering works and 2 major traffic jams, including one leading right up to the venue, time was against me. I eventually gave up, got off the bus and walked at a pace the last half mile through the drizzly streets. But there was no I was going to miss this event; Killing Joke is one of the grandees of industrial rock and were playing their 35th or as lead singer Jaz Coleman claimed, their 34th anniversary concert (there is still some debate about this) and this was going to be the anthology night.
I arrived at the intimate 2000 seat art deco venue very late, resigned to getting a less than ideal view. In the end I was surprised to find a good place in the balcony seating area just in front of the standing area, so it was possible to both sit and stand without impeding anyone else’s view. Believe me, the energy that was to be released at this concert perfect proved it necessary to have both options; standing because there were songs you just wanted to freak out on and seating because you drained so much energy, a breather was needed from time to time, especially at my age. Jaz Coleman was his typically outspoken self, though a fellow fan remarked that he had mellowed considerably; the 3 surviving original band members Geordie Walker, Martin Glover and Paul Ferguson and their additional tour members were rock solidly tight . The band played sometimes as if their lives depended on it. This was a loud powerful in your face concert, that demanded engagement and to that end was reminiscent in terms of its raw energy of the sex pistols 2007 reunion concert at Brixton. On that occasion, I was in the main part of the crowd towards the front in the middle of the mother of all mosh pits. The Killing Joke concert had a manic mosh and particularly went wild during some of the most iconic tracks such as “Love Like Blood”, and “Eighties”. I was grateful to be out of this but I still put in my fair share of fist pump and chanting. “Eighties” song also recalled some of the controversial figures and moments of that decade on two big screen on either side of the auditorium.
Coleman made several controversial (depending upon your point of view) references including; berating the use of mobile phones, i-pod and and i-pad before launching into “The Beautiful Dead Play; telling the audience that he that money never had been and never would be his governor – that proceeded the song “Money is Not our God”; fierily raising the issue of children living under the poverty line and then playing “Corporate Elect”. The pre-encore section culminated with a tub-thumping rendition of “Pandemonium” that had every one cheering and the whole place wanting much more. The band duly obliged with 4 more songs.
Now, in previous reviews I sometimes go into a description of individual songs. On this occasion, there is no point. The lyrics like the music are often highly charged and carry many carry a amti-establishment message. So I will confine myself to listing the songs in order. What this concert was about was raw energy that from the point of view of the senses picked you up, slapped you about and threw you down. It was about letting loose and about celebrating the 35 years or so of a cult band that has had influence on the likes of such rock luminaries as The Foo Fighters, Metallica, Nine Inch Nails and Faith No More, to name but a few.
This was gig demanding but utterly engaging and sensational. I am still buzzing several days later.
Set List
1.Requiem; 2 Turn to Red; 3) Wardance; 4)European Super State; 5)Love Like Blood; 6)The Beautiful Dead; 7) This World Hell; 8) Empire Song; 9) Chop-Chop; 10) Sun Goes Down; 11)Eighties; 12)Money is Not our God; 13) Whiteout; 14) Asteroid; 15) The Wait; 16)Corporate Elect; 17) Pandemonium; Encore : 18) Follow the Leaders; 19) Tension;
20) Change; 21) Psyche;