Soirées Cerises, 25th October 2009-10-27
A lad & a lass? Drums & guitar? If that makes you think White Stripes, pass straight to the next act, and do not pass Soho Grant.
The first 2 songs seem to use the same chord sequence and hit the same limited range, strangely devoid of much of a melody. The unimaginative backing vocals from the Renaud the drummer don’t really enhance Soho’s rather flat voice and dubious English pronunciation (imagine Tanita Tikkaram after a bottle of vodka). Soho’s guitar playing is not exactly going to set the world alight either. And pausing for breath in the middle of a word like “only” or “always” is utterly unforgivable – when you sing, you’re at least supposed to be putting some sort of sense into the words, and that means consistant phrasing as well.
Things get better when Pierre Castor turns up on the piano on the 3rd number, and improve drastically when Pierre takes over the lead vocals in French. Unfortunately, just for one song. We got treated to some of Pierre’s exquisite piano work later on in the set which was the only thing that stopped me regretting sitting so far away from the bar.
I thought that this was one person who has completely bypassed the classics like The Beatles, Dylan, The Byrds, Buckley, or at least has learned no lessons in song writing, melody and assembling chord sequences from them. She'd do well to work a few decent covers into her set, though I am utterly uninspired to make any suggestions.
I did not enjoy listening to Soho singing about her fillings – a trip to the dentist would have been a better eggs-perri-yense. I may be missing something, because there must be some reason why a half decent drummer and a talented pianist would take the trouble to hang about with her, but I didn’t see it tonight.
No time for a beer says Fred – straight into the next act. Faustine Hollander is here for the 3rd time this year. As she’s going to the US for a couple of gigs with Victoria Tibblin, they wanted to give it all a one last run through in front of a live audience, and the live audience has obliged by turning up en masse.
Faustine looks a bit like a little elf in a hoodie with a guitar, and takes about 5 seconds to convince me that she’s in a totally different league from the last lot. The guitar is delicate and subtle. Picked rather than strummed. Her voice chirps up with a delicacy and expression that reminds me of a couple of things that I can’t quite put my finger on. Along the lines of obscure 60 folk singers, with a touch of Feist or Jeff Buckley.
3rd song is a Bukka White (no idea – you’ll have to google) cover. Drop D tuning! Excellent folkie blues. This girl really knows the standards, and it shows. After another self-penned number, we’ve got another cover. Not immediately obvious what it is, until we get to the first few words of Helter Skelter. One of the Beatles’ rockier numbers, this is stripped right down to the essence, even with a vocal line that is much more subdued than Lennon’s original. This is very, very good indeed.
I should also mention Faustine looks like she's just made for this stage (it is my 3rd time – I’m starting to feel like I’m at home here, she quips). She’s as bubbly and entertaining when tuning the guitar as she is when playing it, explaining to the audience what she’s thinking of playing next, and at the end, asking us what order we want to hear the last 2 numbers in.
Only what-if is that when she does shouty parts (as in the last song), she needs to step back from the microphone, and watch the “th” sound, as that occasionally slipped in her otherwise faultless near-mid-western twang.
The thought even crossed my mind that she has a touch of Eva Cassidy about her.
Vikki is a rising star in these parts, with appearances at les Nuits Botaniques and Les Ardentes, and a second album due out imminently. Last time I saw her was here at la flute last December (see: http://exprof21.blogspot.com/2008/12/vinz-we-like-red-wine-la-flte-enchante.html) It was the loudest thing I’d ever heard there, so I went armed with earplugs and was prepared for a full-on set of pure punk. What we got was quite different.
Just Victoria on a Gibson SG playing rhythm parts, and Sal Jean from The Guilty Brother’s Experience on lead. There are a couple of major differences from last time, apart from the line-up. Firstly, the level of volume is far more appropriate to the intimate setting of the Flute Enchantée, secondly, her choice of songs suit her voice much better.
We get a set with exquisite guitar playing from Sal Jean, and a variety of bluesy rock/folk numbers, somewhere between Led Zepplin and Jeff Buckley. And I’d have no hesitation in comparing her to either Buckley or Plant vocally.
The packed house is lapping it all up. She has come on miles over the past year, and is now sounding like an artist just on the edge of the big time. Let’s hope she makes it.
I found Ms Tibblin a bit too bluesey for my liking, but that’s just me. Faustine however is wonderful, and I hope I’ll be getting out again to see her quite soon. Quite possibly on 19th of November, as she's opening for Akron / Family at the Botanique.