Electronic-rock concert So Frenchy So Chic Live! begins with chanteuse Emilie Simon and her band performing in French and English, followed by French/English/Finnish group The Dø.
Simon and The Dø lead singer Olivia Merilahti are captivating women: they both have a striking physical presence, are multilingual and are exceptional vocalists. And if that weren’t enough, they are also accomplished guitarists, play other instruments, and, as composers, experiment with modern electronic gadgetry that distorts and extends sounds.
Simon is in Australia promoting her latest album, Mue, while The Dø (which also features multi-instrumentalist Dan Levy) performed a number of songs from their latest release, Shake, Shook, Shaken.
Comparisons made between Emilie Simon and Kate Bush are more than fair: her long, reddish hair is similar, she has an extraordinary range and, Like Bush, her playful vocal dynamics are distinctive. Merilahti could be seen, in appearance and vocally, a little like Bjork.
For the So Frenchy So Chic Live! concert at Adelaide’s Her Majesty’s Theatre, Simon appeared in a long, golden shimmering evening dress and moved sensually to the music, while Merilahti wore her distinctive red overalls, which allowed a freedom of movement and some martial-art display. Both women were engaging and their musical interpretations intriguing.
Mue is Simon’s fourth album and it means “physical change”. Songs from the release refer to the body and self-renewing – physically and emotionally – when in love. She sang mostly in French during the live show, with the French accent and words lending themselves well to sensuality and emotion of the music.
Simon has also written movie soundtracks, including for the French version of the March of the Penguins, but the gentle, moving music of that documentary is a far cry from the loud, vibrant rock drumming we heard in concert and audiences could be forgiven for having had expectations of a different style of music. However, Simon has written and recorded several albums of beautiful songs and is always experimenting with style and musicality. She performed “I Call it Love” with passion and power, and the ballad-style “Paris J’ai Pris Perpete”, as well as covering The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog” (and even though she was mesmeric, I thought she had other songs that may have been better – for example, her version of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”).
The Dø has also recorded soundtracks for movies and ballets. Olivia Merilahti chooses to sing in English and her performance of “Despair, Hangover and Ecstasy” was sensational.
The Dø performed some other big hits such as “On My Shoulders”, “Miracles [Back in Time]”, “Slippery Slope”, “Keep Your lips Sealed” and “Trustful Hands”. Their sound is varied and cannot be easily defined: they draw on pop, rock and folk genres, but add to the mix synthesiser, keyboards and electronic sounds. The songs are always interesting and, in performance, enthralling.
So Frenchy So Chic Live! was driven by amplified or electronic drumbeats that kept pounding away for two hours. Her Majesty’s may have not been the best venue for these two groups, as I am sure that the musicians are used to audiences being on their feet and dancing as they applaud or sing along.
If you missed the show and are not familiar with Emilie Simon or The Dø , there are some excellent video clips that will serve as an introduction to two emerging French performers who have rapidly captured the attention of European audiences. I expect, after this tour, Australian audiences will not be far behind.
So Frenchy So Chic Live! was presented by Adelaide Festival Centre and Cartell Music for one night only at Her Majesty’s Theatre.
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