LIVE: NOUVELLE VAGUE, Perth, 22 January, 2017
The Rosemount Hotel, Perth
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
There’s as much cabaret in Nouvelle Vague’s re-jigging of new wave and punk classics into bossa nova lounge trip-outs – a ‘so Frenchy, so chic’ cabaret of irresistible coolness and more than a little cuteness.
Hearing the likes of The Ramones’ I Wanna Be Sedated, Billy Idol’s Dancing With Myself and The Buzzcock’s Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t Have) cleansed of punk aggression and distilled into cocktail bar classics is a transcendent experience and a stroke of pure genius, and any doubt they could pull their studio mastery off onstage is instantly dispelled.
Featuring founders Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux, rotating singers & percussionists Liset Alea, Elodie Frege and Melanie Pain, a drummer and double bassist, the sound is sublime and whilst cocktail lounge-friendly, never dumbs down to muzack: far from, Nouvelle Vague are never less than engaging from openers I Could Be Happy (originally by Altered Images), New Order’s Blue Monday and Richard Hell’s Love Comes In Spurts.
Rockers like us excited to experience old favourites in new ways are thin on the ground: there’s a lot of middle aged professional types here, many of whom perhaps don’t know most of the originals played. Herein lies the dichotomy of Nouvelle Vague: do they play for the punk and new wave fans who are tickled by these new arrangements? Or do they play for the loungey chic crowd, who may not know the difference, in this format, between The Cure’s Cats Are Grey and Nouvelle Vague’s own Algo Familiar, or between Gary Numan’s Metal and Modern English’s I Melt With You? It is fair to say that for this reviewer’s taste, the songs we’ve known for decades are more enjoyable to hear than the ones we are unfamiliar with, so their reliance on recent album tracks by Cocteau Twins (Athol-Brose), Fripp & Eno (No-One is Receiving) and obscure Madness number Grey Day.
That is, of course, just a matter of personal taste, and Athol-Brose especially is a thing of beauty, awarded such warm applause that even singer Camille is moved to say, “thankyou – we like this place.”
Dancing With Myself features a groovy, jazzy breakdown, while Depeche Mode’s I Just Can’t Get Enough goes from crowd participation to a percussionists dream Samba – new wave becomes world music.
The six-piece push The Rosemount’s Sunday night curfew with not one encore, but two – the second, In A Manner Of Speaking, rendered simply with acoustic guitar and vocal, and like the rest of the night’s entertainment, it was entrancing.
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