Saturday 21 July 2012

Charlotte Gainsbourg and Drop Out Venus at Somerset House - 19 July 2012

Charlotte Gainsbourg pic by Keith Knight

Call it fate, kismet or just a big, glorious smacker of a coincidence.

I have had a ticket for tonight’s Charlotte Gainsbourg show here in the grand environs of Somerset House for the best part of a month. I’ve been really looking forward to it.

Then suddenly, a couple of days ago, it was announced that the support act is going to be Call Of the Wyld faves Drop Out Venus. Frankly, this level of synchronicity should not be possible in a rational universe – but here we all are.

And tonight, in front of a large crowd who have come to see someone else, Iva, Chris and Ursula absolutely storm it.

The band are evolving so quickly at the moment that it is difficult to keep up. Confidence just flows through them. Gone are the days when they seemed nervous and vulnerable, tonight they are completely assured in what they are doing and confident in their material.

So the set is split between harrowing, soul wrenching quiet songs about alienation and death and faster, almost full throttle rock numbers (which also tend to be about death).

Iva Moscovitch is as focussed, spiky and unpredictable as ever, but she seems to really appreciate the bigger audience. She’s emotionally fearless and when her voice cracks during ‘Love And Desire’ it not only silences the crowd but seems to overwhelm drummer Ursula, who slumps across her kit.

The show is a triumph and the great reception that the band receives comes from the whole audience and not just us smitten fanboys down the front.

If Drop Out Venus trade in powerful emotion, Charlotte Gainsbourg and her band are the epitome of easy, elegant cool. They are all dressed in natty white clothes, Gainsbourg long and slim and sporting a pair of killer black boots that look like they could slice you to death.

Gainsbourg is abetted tonight by Connan Mockasin, who acts as band leader, confidante and Keith Lemon look-alike. He brings a fuzzy psychedelic edge to Charlotte’s Gallic pop and it makes for a smooth, groovy sound.

Gainsbourg is showcasing songs from her recent ‘Stage Whispers’ double album, so many of these tracks are unfamiliar. It doesn’t matter. I have a momentary frisson when she announces that a song has been written by Charlie Fink. However, this turns out to be the guy behind Noah And The Whale and not the erstwhile front man of Penthouse (aka Fifty Tons Of Black Terror).

 Although she does not have the strongest of voices, Charlotte compensates by being charming and relaxed. She has a gift for percussion and graduates through a succession of strange devices, including at one point something that looks like a coffee tin with a string hanging from the bottom.

This summer has been dogged by terrible weather, but tonight the evening is warm and dry and this balmy sophisticated music is just perfect for the occasion. The smooth tempo is broken when the band breaks into a surprisingly faithful version of David Bowie’s ‘Ashes to Ashes’. We all roar and get funk to funky for this one.

It must be said that the second half of the set…drifts a bit. There is one lengthy instrumental track that allows for my entire group to take turns slipping off to the distant toilets under Somerset House and to return without apparently missing anything.

This is a minor niggle. It’s a charming performance from a charming group of musicians. It’s been a fab night out and I am delighted that two acts that are so different from the run of the mill have been allowed to perform in such a magnificent setting.

 The summer starts here?


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