Monday, January 26, 2009

Sebastien Tellier Live at Concorde 2

Last year I coined a brand new genre, 'Chansonica', to encompass that certain stable of contemporary electro music with one foot in the French Chanson tradition. Some of my current favourite music, much of which I have talked about here, falls into this category. A recent addition to my ever-expanding Chansonica collection is Sebastien Tellier, whose retro synthpop ballads strike just the right balance between sophistication and cheese, nostalgia and now. His latest album, Sexuality, has remained poised on top of the stereo ever since it was purchased, ready for those spontaneous post-pub gatherings, to which it has proved the ideal accompaniment.

Taking the tradition of Gallic insoucience its nonchalant extreme, Tellier finally appeared in Brighton last night, three months (and two postponements) after he was originally scheduled to play the Concorde2. Shuffling onto stage 30 minutes late in a swirl of photography-defying smoke and relentlessly flashing lights, France's far-too-cool 2008 Eurovision entrant delivered a pleasing if not exactly electrifying hour or so set. 

This was my first gig of 2009, and I was still riding high from the final one of last year - Camille's storming show at Den Atelier in Luxembourg. It would have been hard for anyone to match Camille's energy, polish and passion on that occasion, though I had heard similarly rave reviews about Sebastien Tellier's live performances. Standing all alone (Ant had gone home sick) at the edge of the audience last night, I couldn't help feeling that the epic euphoric keyboard riffs and Gainsbourg-inspired flowery sentiments would have been better experienced in the fuzzier context of a festival field, and was doubly gutted that I failed to catch his Latitude gig.

Everyone seemed in subdued Sunday night mode, no doubt hungover from the night before and preoccupied with having to get up for work in the morning - which may have partly accounted for the general lack of vavavavoom. Apart from a few over-excited French students, the reaction was unusually low-key for a Concorde gig, and even the encore-request felt half-hearted. It was difficult to determine whether Tellier's barely intelligible Franglais banter between songs was the result of intoxication, nerves or pretension, but his kooky attempts at humour resulted in little but awkward forced laughter and bemused eyebrow raising among the punters. 

I fear I am being unduly negative, and it's not that I didn't enjoy the gig - I did. It's just that after such a long wait it felt disappointingly flat. Having just listened again to two Sebastien Tellier albums back to back, I am determined to try and see him live again at some point, preferably with a warm Mediterranean breeze on my face and springy grass under my shoes next time.

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Photo of Sebastien Tellier at Flow Festival, by Vilhelm Sjostrom on Flickr (creative commons licence)
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