Gig/Concert: Nouvelle Vague
Venue: Lâ€™Astral, MontrĂ©al, QC, Canada
Date: 26 January 2010
Headliners: Nouvelle Vague
In one word: Fabuleux
If you donâ€™t know them yet, Franceâ€™s Nouvelle Vague are the cover band thatâ€™s not about to play your wedding party – as much as you wish they would, DJ-in-a-can be damned.Â They perform playful, sultry, (mostly) bossa-nova covers of 80s punk/new wave bands (hence their name, â€śnew waveâ€ť in French) ranging from Dead Kennedys & Sex Pistols to New Order & Joy Division, with a little Heart and Bauhaus in between.Â Itâ€™s a combination that almost has no right to work as well as it does, somehow managing to avoid the dreaded gum-and-nuts mĂ©lange of elevator music covers, tasting more like that dessert thatâ€™s an espresso shot dumped over vanilla gelato.Â Mmmm.Â Gelato.
The biggest aversion factor I have with most cover acts is that they become such transparent idol-worship that theyâ€™re less â€śtribute bandâ€ť than â€śmasturbatory experiment.â€ťÂ In taking over old hits and giving them a completely different context, Nouvelle Vague are no such thing, with fairly consistently awesome results.Â Their sound doesnâ€™t stay strictly within the bossa-nova / jazz frame – evident on their latest album, 3 – giving them lots of room to play around, and they come up with some fairly surprising interpretations.
The show starts with a haunting, wistful version of The Policeâ€™s â€śSo Lonely,â€ť capturing the songâ€™s isolation so well in a way that it creeps up through my spine, and now I canâ€™t imagine hearing it any other way.Â Â The Sex Pistolsâ€™ â€śGod Save the Queenâ€ť gets turned into a subversive sleepytime lullaby, with only a singer (I think itâ€™s Karina Zeviani?) curled up on the stage floor and Olivier Libaux sharing the darkened stage, rehashing the anti-monarchial diatribe with almost more sneer – for all its understated delivery – than the original.Â The cherry on top is the gamine sing-along refrain of Thereâ€™s no future/No future for you, so sweet, yet soâ€¦ evil?Â Itâ€™s something youâ€™d expect out of one of those movies featuring a deceivingly demonic child.
The Clashâ€™s â€śGuns of Brixtonâ€ť is given a slinky beginning giving way to the familiar chunky beat but with Karinaâ€™s breathy vocals threatening the whispery refrain.Â Like I said, I didnâ€™t think that I would love this as much as I do.Â Getting the audience to chant FUCK serves as an intro to Dead Kennedysâ€™ â€śToo Drunk to Fuck,â€ť here turned into a dizzy jazzed-up tale of debauchery, with Karina Zeviani tossing around on the floor and Marina Celeste dancing around behind her.Â Two Depeche Mode songs also make it into the set – â€śMaster & Servant,â€ť & â€śI Just Canâ€™t Get Enoughâ€ť – and Gary Numanâ€™s â€śMetal,â€ť (off of their latest album, 3) was a surprise; I last heard this being covered by Nine Inch Nails on their last tour.
Coming back onstage for the encore, they play my absolute favourite – Bauhausâ€™s â€śBela Lugosiâ€™s Dead,â€ť which quite frankly, might be better than the original.Â I donâ€™t know how Iâ€™m able to actually admit that, but there it is.Â Their version of â€śBelaâ€ť plays heavy on the B-movie-style organ, doing credit to the titular actorâ€™s repertoire; with the stage bathed in red, Marina is sprawled on the stage next the electric stand-up bass, and Karinaâ€™s vocal delivery ranges from growl to howl until she too, ends up on the sticky, beer stained floor.Â The show ends with the flamenco-frenzied â€śNot Knowing,â€ť followed by Tuxedomoonâ€™s â€śIn a Manner of Speaking,â€ť winding down with the sleek bossa-nova that they do so well.
Â© Liz Keith
Setlist (with original composers):
So Lonely Â Â Â Â Â Â – The Police
Master & Servant Â Â Â – Depeche Mode
Ever Fallen in Love Â Â Â – Buzzcocks
Metal Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â – Gary Numan
Making Plans of Nigel – XTC
Blue MondayÂ Â Â Â Â Â – New Order
Human Fly Â Â Â Â Â Â – The Cramps
Guns of Brixton Â Â Â – The Clash
Too Drunk to Fuck Â Â Â – Dead Kennedys
I Just Can’t Get Enough – Depeche Mode
Road to Nowhere Â Â Â – Talking Heads
Stop the World Â Â Â – Modern English
Dance With Me Â Â Â – Lords of the New Church
Blister in the Sun Â Â Â – Violent Femmes
Friday Night, Saturday Morning – The Specials
Love Will Tear Us Apart – Joy Division
Bela Lugosi’s Dead Â Â Â – Bauhaus
Not a Love Song Â Â Â – PIL
Not KnowingÂ Â Â Â Â Â – Minimal Compact
In a Manner of Speaking – Tuxedomoon
Photos – Nouvelle Vague at L’Astral, Montreal